Saturday, September 30, 2006

Belt of Verbs

Buckle on your verb belt because it's time for "Belt of Verbs": a couple of kicky, kooky verbs for filling up the empty pouch.

1. From this ESPN headline: decisions
Former WBC Ortiz decisions Garcia

I'm not much for boxing (anything that reminds me of enduring punishing blows to my head, no thank you), but "decisions," the lexicon tells me, has been around for quite some time. It's what one winning boxer does to a losing boxer without a knockout. Improper usage: "I decisioned to have an A&W Root Beer with lunch." Unless you're a boxer. Then you can say "decisioned" whenever you please.

2. From a book I've been reading: multiplexed
"Two kinds of apprehension are mutliplexed together."

I guess this means something like giving off many complex and layered signals all at once: an entangled conduction that allows for (even anticipates) loss. So it's in the realm of the intelligible that comes just before noise. Not to be mistaken for the many-screened movie theater or the manufacturer of foam planes.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Kept Tabs

Flickr recently passed 250 million images (via). To mark the occasion, I tried to complete one game of Flickr tile Sudoku, but quit because I started to feel as though my eyes were about to fail (via). A box full of 429817635 it ain't. Sudoku!

Also open in the tabs of my tabbed browser:

  1. Bloglines
  2. An eighteen-note Notefish for the paragraphs I've been kneading all evekning.
  3. Wikipedia's entry on proprioception.
  4. on logography.
  5. A page with downloadable .zips of Calibri and few other fonts.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

News & Notes

Here's how this afternoon's writing went, expressed in a schematic illustration with precise measurements:

Nah. I'm kidding around. But I figured, *shrug,* what the hell? Having a bit of dryness at the blog, why not post a schematic of a toilet bowl and feature it as a commentary on the occasional struggle involved in writing. Plus, that way I'll have a grand total of 19 entries in the month of September--making this a solid lock for second-highest effort in the 2006 blogging campaign.

To the News & Notes list

  • Our scanner expired. An HP 4600 flatbed, little more than a year old (but irreversibly beyond the terms of the warranty). Its poor bulb dimmed, and would never shine again, no matter how many times I pounded my fist against the cheap plastic casing in miserly frustration. Just to be sure I wasn't missing something like a driver upgrade or a known problem, I dialed onto the internets, went to the HP site, and initiated a customer service chat. Do you love online customer service chats or what? Given the success of the Padres and Saints, it was a small victory to get a rep named Santiago. He was the one who lucked into chatting with me about my crappy scanner, then gave me the automated text which read, "Be patient while I check our records for the status of your warranty" after I'd already explained to him that I was some forty days since we'd celebrated the scanner's first and only birthday.
  • I pitched a rock and thus lost in our family's annual "Who Will Attend the Parent Orientation?" rock-scissor-paper game. And it has been raining a perfectly miserable drizzle all afternoon and evening. I thought to myself, What could be worse than going to the high school and listening to a bunch of teachers rattle off ten-minute versions of their courses before--bell rings--moving to another classroom for the same? Nothing. I could think of nothing worse. But then I got there, and it wasn't so unbearable after all. Everybody praised Ph. (although nearly everyone is calling him by the shorter version of his name: P. How'd that happen? "I enjoy having P. in class." "You mean Ph." "Yeah, P. sure is a delight.")
  • Ph. has cool classes and terrific teachers. The music class, "Music In Our Lives," was especially promising, if a bit heavy on rationalism. The spiel went something like "We're emphasizing listening with an intellect rather than emotion. Students are good at emotional listening, but they often have a hard time thinking about what they hear." Probably true, but still. Emotion bad, reason good. Social studies looks to be the toughest one on the schedule. But the teacher is also our neighbor. And she's friendly. The class requires Cornell Notes, which urges the recording of big ideas and small details during a lecture followed by a summary paragraph after the lecture. The tough part is that the summary paragraph is an everyday requirement, but there are just two note-checks per marking period. Better keep up! I also went to Earth Science and English 10 (reading novels, writing through generic models, and sampling "critical theory"...oh?). And then I stopped in for a ten-minute bit from the health teacher who also happens to coach Ph.'s (or is it P. now?) soccer team. Seemed like a good class, but there were so many health and wellness messages postering the walls I could hardly pay attention to the talk. One poster presented the procedures for protecting a banana with a condom. Holy smokes. Gotta love public schools. Everyone in the auditorium at the beginning of the orientation was asked by the principal to stand and recite the pledge. "I pledge allegiance to the...."
  • Once I was home again, plopped on the couch, gobbling dinner, and flipping channels, D. had Is. on her playmat "gym" and lo and behold she rolled over for the first time. She refused to perform the feat a second time (why bother?), but all of the fanfare riled in Y. a small yelp or two from the office. "Roll over," after all, is his latest achievement, as well. And although we're less jubilant in celebrating it with him, he deserves a nod for doing it first, if only by a couple of days.

Friday, September 22, 2006




I officially submitted my qualifying exam proposal today. It's a formality in the sense that I've been reading for several weeks, but a formality, nonetheless, that moves me one small step closer to sitting for them in ten weeks (or quite possibly sixteen weeks).

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Today I was invited to join the Facebook group "Muellers of the World Unite." After excitedly accepting, I read "the wall" (Facebook's discussion board feature) and learned that I am not alone in being mocked by the clever many who have launched into full-blown impromptu renditions of the gone absent scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off: "Bueller, Bueller?" Yeah, I know. Horrifying or hillarious, it remains a don't-choke-on-your-tongue laugh riot after twenty friggin' years.

That's right, "Muellers of the World Unite" is an invitation-only group (still in its infancy, mind you, with merely 140 more than 200 members) largely concerned with mispronunciation: as often mill-er or mull-er as the preferred mew-ler. The seventh cousins and other kin-folk are outraged by such egregious treatments of the surname.

I kept on reading the fourteen wall-posts, and than, feeling good about being surrounded by like-named people, I found this treasure in the "Recent News": "This just in: Muellers are better then you."

No, I haven't been invited to take a leadership role in the group. I only ask that next time you are tempted to let fly with your impersonation of a nasally teacher uncomprehending of delinquency from school--"Mueller? Mueller"--tune the pronunciation.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Shot Day

Not shot in the sense of yet another bout of nonproductivity. Even if it wasn't a day spent checking things off in the good-students-read-every-day column of my qualifying exam list, I got a few things accomplished:

  • returned cans and bottles to the store for a whopping $4.something which I immediately spent on raisins, oatmeal pies, diet Coke, and root beer
  • cut the front lawn while Y., then tied to the cable-run, yapped top-volume bloody hell to all who would listen
  • repaired the vacuum cleaner handle with duct tape and vacuumed the three small carpeted spots in the house
  • cleaned the bathroom, dirty top to dirty bottom

No ordinary Tuesday in what this list reflects. You see, we're readying for guests from the land of milk and honey Koegel's and Faygo Red. Yeah, D.'s folks and sister will be here tomorrow through the weekend, so some spiffing up was in order. I also managed to inch ever nearer to a viable draft of a book review that's coming due (mostly reading and note-making).

I say "shot day" because this morning Is. toughed through her first pediatric appointment since the one she had at six days old. Routine stuff: at 8 lbs. 11 oz., she's still in the flyweight class and 10th percentile (i.e., small) for her age, albeit that her age is equivalent to two weeks if you grant her some calendric leniency (deducting # of weeks early (5) from her present age (7 wks)). Only seems fair. Still, they went ahead with vaccinations. Shots, that is. Four total: two per thigh. Before the nurse administered them, D. and I had a few minutes alone with whitepapers for each shot explaining risks, what to expect, and so on. I don't remember reading anything about sore legs, but Sore? More crying today than in the last seven weeks combined.

The shot theme: still there's more. Ph. returned from his soccer match to report a 9-1 win against cross-town rivals. The surprise in this piece of news is that they faced the same team in the summer league and lost, 2-1. I really don't have any idea how many shots-on-goal came from either side. Probably more than nine. But I'll not try to persuade Is. that her four were fewer by any measure.

Friday, September 15, 2006

< >

We have symbol names (tilde, ampersand, caret) and then, you know, symbol names (greater than, less than).

Here's the crux: I need some suggestions for a better way of naming "<" and ">". By the book, they're greater than and less than. But I wonder what others call them when talking through html tags, naming them, that is, more as punctuation marks than as terms for comparing quantities.

There are too many words involved with greater than and less than, and I have the same concern with caret tipped left, caret tipped right (although I do find them snappier). Plus, the left/right references bog me down because I'm one of those who, well, let's just say I have to think about right and left. Might be because I had left-handed tendencies until they schooled them out of me back in '79. Another entry for another time.

Right now I'm concerned with finding a better way of naming greater than and less than when talking about html tags (it's what I do, too many days: sit around and talk about code).

Maybe prime and cap? Because they're short and slide neatly between noun and verb. Ex: A paragraph tag is prime p cap. But I'm sure there are other names. Suggestions?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lloyd-Jones on Centrality

In "A View from the Center," his 1977 CCCC keynote address, here's what Richard Lloyd-Jones said about Mrs. Peterson, "the emblem" of those in his audience:

Some will share a memory with me--the recollection of picking up the phone, cranking one long ring, and getting "central." You could ring various combinations of shorts and longs and get specific subscribers directly, but if you really wanted to know what was going on in the village you rang "central."

The folks in bigger towns, which had numbers, had to call central in order to be hooked up to anybody else on the system, but their central didn't know much except numbers, and out central had a name--Mrs. Peterson--and she knew all sorts of things. Somehow, in the village, she knew who was at the bank, who had gone down to the ice house, who hadn't been feeling well. I don't know that she listened in on all the conversations, but we supposed so. She just made herself central in the life of the community. In our more urban and perhaps urbane way, we would think of her as a communication nexus, but we'd to better to remember Mrs. Peterson as Central. (49)

Compositionist as pastoral telephone operator. A communication nexus. This isn't the only metaphor Lloyd-Jones invokes in the talk, but it is the piece that resonates most with network studies. Whatever her methods (eavesdropping? Mrs. Peterson!), she is knowing because of a high degree of centrality, her niche in a reasonably sized network. When network become too large, the connector's knowledge diminishes. Thresholds: Central knows only numbers in densely populated areas.

Nothing to add beyond that. Just reading for exams, posting notes, and thinking Lloyd-Jones was talking about network centrality in his address out in Kansas City some years ago.

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

Analogon and Scope

After I just happened to be looking back on a few notes I plunked down this time last September, I caught wind of Daily Kos' entry predicting Bush's impending outrage over wide-angle lenses (via). The set of images is compelling for its amplification of invented moments--the pose, the emptied site, the performance of sorrow (not that I mean to question anyone's convictions, only to point out that the staged scene interpenetrates the actors, perhaps even mocks them in their vacant, stolid surroundings).

Westcott C-Fair

I have an email here reminding me that the annual Westcott Culture Fair is coming up this Sunday, 9/17, from 12-7. Without much planning, we've enjoyed the C-Fair each of the last two years. Of course, it was easier then. We lived within a block of Westcott. Each time, curious about the heavy traffic from cars and passers-by, we'd look out, figure something interesting was going on, and head over to Westcott--a strip of shops and restaurants in the old neighborhood just east of campus. This year's C-Fair should be more interesting, however, and I'm noting it blogally because the email includes this:

The fair starts off with a parade where members of Nottingham's varsity football and soccer team, along with our cheerleaders, will be marching.

I could be off, but I take this to be saying that Ph. will be among the parade marchers at noon on Sunday. Uh, except that we have somewhere else to be at that very same time that "the fair starts off," it should be a lot of fun. Westcott C-Fair-style. If you get there and I don't, snap a picture, will ya?

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 his discussion of metaphor, Lloyd-Jones makes use of tenor and vehicle as helper terms to account for the trope of metaphor. These echo I.A. Richards in The Philosophy of Rhetoric.
  • Lloyd-Jones is overt in his skepticism of computers and "deductive electronic gadgets" in what he calls an "age of quantification."
  • Without using a vocabulary of networks, this is a talk arguing for composition's centrality, the role of compositionists as well-connected language mavens and also as "negotiators, explainers, and referees" (50). A high degree of connection is preferable; without it, we "deserve our present basic position, that is, our traditional place in the damp cellar of the house of the intellect" (50).
  • In his discussion of differing views on the deep structure of the field (the best metaphor, even), Lloyd-Jones winds up preferring mutability over rigidity.
  • Lloyd-Jones also mentions "keeping up" and the problems involved with knowing everything (enough) when doing work across the disciplines.
  • There is an unusual religious subtext here, and it's especially evident at the end with the line, "Keep the Faith, Babies." Um?

"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:

  • Can we do anything to stop the decline in publicly supported education?
  • Can we promote a literacy that challenges monopolies of knowledge and information?
  • Can we use technology to lessen rather than widen social divisions?

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.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


For dinner, a spinach fritatta.

Spinach Frittata

Both of these kids might've wished for a taste, but have some, regrettably, they could notta.

Is. Yoki

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.

Little Knowns: Myscot Wheel

A team of icon-figures as unique as DNA: myscot wheel.

Myscot Wheel

Min. qualification: at least one student year.

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

No Last Word

Remembering to read a little bit of Barthes from time to time. I like this one (from RB):

When I used to play prisoner's base...

When I used to play prisoner's base in the Luxembourg, what I liked best was not provoking the other team and boldly exposing myself to their right to take me prisoner; what I liked best was to free the prisoners--the effect of which was to put both teams back into circulation: the game started over again at zero.

In the great game of the powers of speech, we also play prisoner's base: one language has only temporary rights over another; all it takes is for a third language to appear from the ranks for the assailant to be forced into retreat: in the conflict of rhetorics, the victory never goes to any but the third language. The task of this language is to release the prisoners: to scatter the signifieds, the catechisms. As in prisoner's base, language upon language, to infinity, such is the law which governs the logosphere. Whence other images: that of choosing up hand over hand (the third hand returns, it is no longer the first one), that of scissors, paper, stone, that of the onion in its layers of skin without a core. That difference should not be paid for by any subjection: no last word. (50)

After reading through Invention as a Social Act, I turned to this bit from RB to untwist what I was reading about collaboration as a dialectical process from Lefevre. No need to blur the distinction between synthesis (anti/thesis wound together like a bread-tie) and "scatter[ing] the signifieds."

Although this is as much because I was posting Barthes passages last year, 9/7.

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:

  • "A Platonic view of invention leads us to favor individualistic approaches to research and to neglect studies of writers in social contexts" (23).
  • "A Platonic view depicts invention as a closed, one-way system" (24).
  • "A Platonic view abstracts the writer from society" (25).
  • "A Platonic view assumes and promotes the concept of the atomistic self as inventor" (26).
  • "A Platonic view fails to acknowledge that invention is collaborative" (29).

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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006


I'm up to my chin in other writing tonight, so I want only to share a link to something I've been tinkering with for WRT302: Tabblo. It was released in May, and, well, I'm just now getting to it. Sure, most of what you can do with Tabblo, you can also do with basic HTML or a site like Flickr (actually, it's interoperable with Flickr, so you can easily pull your Flickr images into Tabblo for other arrangements, poster printing, etc.). Basically, I'm thinking of Tabblo's suitability for procedural documents using lots of screenshots. Tabblo utilizes a drag-n-drop process and makes it really easy to incorporate images repeatedly while isolating (through crop and zoom) features in the image. Below the fold I've dropped in the code Tabblo provides for sharing a spread. Nothing fancy in what I've scraped together: it's the basic--i.e., experimental--Tabblo I created to prime 302ers on blogging with MT.

Also, for comparison, I've been keeping an eye on Instructables, although I have yet to set one up.

Heh, just as soon as I set this to publish, "Tabblo is currently offline." I swear, it wasn't me.

Tabblo: MT New Entry Demo

1. This brief tutorial demonstrates how you can create a new entry in your Movable Type weblog.


Begin at our course hub, 


In the right-hand menu, you'll find a collection of links under the heading "WRT302 Weblogs."


Select MT Login.

... See my Tabblo>

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Sirc, "Box-Logic"

Sirc, Geoffrey. "Box-Logic."Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Logan: Utah State UP, 2004.

Sirc emphasizes logics of annotation and collection as he develops a new media pedagogy drawing on the variations of the box as it figures into the work of Joseph Cornell, Walter Benjamin, and George Maciunas. Moving away from essayist prose, Sirc deflects the related notions of "articulate coherence, conventional organization, and extensive development" (115) and instead considers the the "formal and material concerns [that] guide a newly-mediated pedagogical practice" (114). The pedagogy involves association, intensities, desire, and lack--"student as passionate designer" (115) and writer as "dissatisfied collector, one impatiently seeking pleasure" (117). Further emphases include open-endedness, "the raw, then, not the cooked" (120), element(s) of play (121), a "loose, unthematized collection; the parts not necessarily inflecting each other as in the traditional essay" (120), and caesura.

"It's the idea of the prose catalogue. Text as a collection of interesting, powerful statements" (112).

"The personally associational becomes key criteria" (116).

"The materially interesting, then, is what should guide acquisition" (116).

"It wasn't a question of cutting edge technology" (119). ^Implication: bricolage and prioritizing composition over newest! technologies.

"Involved here is an aesthetic of the found object, of interesting, quirky, small-t truths one stumbles upon" (118).

"Arrangement of materials and notational jottings is a desperately important compositional skill" (123).

Charles Simic on Cornell's boxes: "Somewhere in the city [...] there are four or five still-unknown objects that belong together" (125).

"The refusal to allow text as open-ended, un-screwed-down box, rushing instead to impose on it the mild boredom of order, is a concern I have with much computers and writing scholarship today" (120).

Terms: wunderkabinette (116), "composition as craving" (117), caesura (123), "blips of unfinished text" (124), textual possibilities (125), curio cabinet (125), survival kit (124), pulsion and evaluation (124).

Related sources
Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. London: Verso, 1997.
Duchamp, Marcel. Salt Seller: The Writings of Marcel Duchamp. Ed. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson. New York: Oxford UP, 1973.
Simic, Charles. Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1992.

The Networked Image

I first picked up on Google's Image Labeler two days ago (via). In a nutshell, Image Labeler addresses a semiotic problem: the indexing of hundreds of thousands of images based on semantic assignments in the visual field of each image. Indexing an image depends upon the assignment of keywords that correspond to the objects represented. Google Image Labeler makes this process into a game of peer review: in this two person game, a player win points by registering a descriptor that also appears on the other person's list.

Tracing a few links (succumbing, that is, to the beckoning of a surprising curiosity), I briefly started to follow the life of this conversation in computer science and art. Most intriguing in this regard was the talk embedded below, a talk called "Human Computation" given by Luis von Ahn at Carnegie Mellon.

I find von Ahn's talk fascinating on several levels. He explains gaming (i.e., "Games with a Purpose") as a solution to the labor-production dilemma of developing a gargantuan repository of indexed images, of reconciling the gap, using the most basic set of terms, between image and word. Implicitly, he sets up a way of thinking about "writing the image" as collaboration, as writing that connects (in the allure of consensus, agreeing, that is, on the equivalence of Bush's photo and "yuck" (around 21:00 in the video)) and produces. In keeping with the title of his talk, he explains human computation--"Running a computation in people's brains instead of silicon processors."--premised upon "anonymous intimacy," the pleasure of coming to terms with strangers about the verbal evoked in the encounter with the visual. He also refers to his impressive research projects The ESP Game and PeekaBoom, predecessors, it would seem, to Google's Image Labeler.

Is it going too far to invoke Barthes here? If not the studium, exactly, there is something studium-like in Google's Image Labeler. The image-index undertaking is a project akin to establishing studium as a database. The collaboration between a labeler and a validator (partners in the game) devalues the intense singularity and instead reduces the image to human-generated language agreements, its lexical mutuality. There is a networked quality to the image in the way it is treatment here. Enigmatic thinking won't win in this game. The image is domesticated by the process and submitted into the most generic realm of culture, which, as Barthes puts it, "is a contract arrived at between creators and consumers" (28). It's useful for image searching, but is also has implications for habituated seeing and collaborative image work.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Corndogs and Funnel Cakes

Once again, The Great NY State Fair has come to a close. Ph. and I did, however, score a pair of free tickets from our kind and generous neighbors. This morning, on the final day of The Great NY State Fair, we drove over to the Shoppingtown Mall's NE parking lot and then hopped a Centro bus to the fairgrounds for nearly three hours of walking around, marveling at the people and at the sights, taking a few photos (before the batteries quit), and gulping cholesterol-rich comfort foods. Regrettably, we somehow missed the Parade of Goats at 10:00 a.m., and so instead wandered through the hall of vendors which was electric with speeches on the life-changing latest in cookware, dust mops, and foot massagers.


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


I was interested to read Paul Matsuda's recent entry, "Read Everything," because it gets at the challenge involved in scholarly niche and rhythm. He begins with this:

One of the stock pieces of advice that I give gradaute students is to "read everything." Of course it's impossible to read everything that has ever been written, but I do expect researchers to have read everything--literally everything--on subtopics within the field on which they are writing.

This paradox is the ongoing challenge, no? Read everything; to read everything is impossible. Still, one must. But cannot. Etc. The outlying factors bear down and raise related questions: write everything? How much to read before writing? While writing? How much to write while reading?

I developed a decent relationship with my FYC professor at Central Michigan (where I studied for a year before transferring) and so listened in on many of his sage asides. For him, the maxim of read it all shifted to memory and attention and "read this": "Be one on whom nothing is lost." I remember him reminding us--fervently--that to feel intellectually small you need only to go to the library, look at one shelf on one floor of the library, and consider what you must do to understand it. Phew. Were we ever glad to have a reader.

To my mind Matsuda's stock advice is good for hearing, even if it can't be fully executed. In this sense, it turns into the performance of reading all that one can possibly read and recognizing (while also not being put off by) the unavoidable limitation in such a commitment as that.

Note Systems

Success in qualifying exams and later with the diss depends upon a reasonably comprehensive note-taking system. It's true, it's true. Who would argue? (And so it's a truism hardly worth restating).

I took so-so notes throughout coursework, but I also experimented a little bit too much, often making do with something messy and sketchy or other times accepting as good enough a summary or some other sort of page long response to the reading. From coursework, then, I have an assortment of notes. I mean the category of notes includes all kinds and classes: stickies, composition book messes, legal pads with many-an-in-class doodle, blog entries in the reading notes category, and so on. Some are proving useful for exam preparation, but many, regrettably, must be brushed up. In the weeks ahead, I've many notes to groom. I should add, however, that much of the writing that happens beyond the edge of intelligible notes is also worthwhile. So I wouldn't say that coursework would have been sharper for me at the time had I taken more methodical notes. Yet with relatively minor effort, I could have focused my coursework notes into something that, for being more regular in form and scope, would have served me better later on (i.e., right now). So many lessons.

Of the many small bumps and ruts I passed through this summer (toward reasonably smooth progress on exams), the biggest one involved settling on a method for keeping good notes. It had to be sustainable. It had to be searchable. It had to be typed (bc my handwriting...bird-scratch illegible). It had to involve tagging and other schemes for organization. And it had to function like a robust database. Aesthetically appealing. Affordable.

Exams vary considerably from program to program, as you would expect. Ours involve a major area (two questions; a pair of three-hour sittings to answer each on a single day) and two minor areas (one, we have the question for a week, then write it on site in three hours; the other, we write at home throughout a one-week stretch). Add it up, and it comes to nine hours of writing in a whatever's available space in the department (often the grad office) and a week-long take home essay that, when said and done, ought to be "publishable quality." As of this moment, it still seems possible to me that I'll be ready to kick things in motion with the all-day major exam on Dec. 1 and follow with the two minor exams before the holidays. If a crappy semester, the alternate date is sometime in January.

But I set out to write about my notes system. I eventually settled on something systematic back in early June, and, aside from a few due and appropriate lulls, I've been posting notes fairly regularly. I'm satisfied that it's coming together, doing, I mean, what I think a notes system should do--keeping me focused, moving along, registering thinned and concentrated versions of what I've read. And I share it now, after close to fifty entries, because I wanted to be sure it was up and running before I pointed to it. And so it is.

Comments are closed, and I haven't made use of any internal trackbacks yet, although I might if I decide that such a thing would be helpful. I've been most pleased with the tagging system (tags-in-common trigger the "Related Entries" feature at the bottom of each individual entry). It's also tied in with a private (for now) account for other categorical clustering. The dates assigned to each entry are rough approximations of the dates I produced the notes (you'll see, for instance, that the book I'm on now is posted already for tomorrow). And the minor exams are yet underdeveloped for some of the reasons I mentioned above--many of those notes are on paper or in other places.

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).


  • Mustn't rely on hypertext's novelty;
  • Readers, even with greater selective agency, are conditioned by print and related spatial expectations;
  • Lefebvre's social space: conceived, perceived, and lived;
  • Linearity does not equate to hierarchy.

"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

Demon Casting

It's probably just the thing I deserve for entertaining even the slightest interest in SU's season opener. I kept one eye on the game via's Gamecast, and, as you can see for yourself, the cast, which reported, much to my suspense and jubilation, a 24-24 draw down the stretch, turned out to be in error. Wake Forest wins, 20-10. Cruel, ESPN.  Just plain cruel.

Tie! Tie! Tie?

Ah, but wait.  Not all of my fall sports optimism is dashed. A former student (McLaughlin) put Park past John Brown U. with a goal in the 87th minute this afternoon. Nice!

Photos and Locative Tagging

Flickr launched a new geotagging feature this week (via). It's tied in with Yahoo's mapping API; via Flickr, you can assign locative data to your photos simply by drag-and-drop methods. The Flickr blog reports an impressive surge in the geotagging of photographs with some 1.2 million geotagged in the first 24 hours after the feature's rollout.

Granted, if a photo already had geotags assigned, the new system automatically recognized them, so a fair portion of the 1.2 million were probably auto-assigned rather than initiated by Flickr users.

Several months ago I made use of some of the earlier geotagging efforts, which established grid coordinates as tags unto themselves.

The new scheme, however, keeps the locative data under the hood and instead offers a simple link to a map alongside a label indicating "Taken in/near <placename>."

After months of thinking they were defunct, it turns out that all of the old geotags haven't gone to waste.

They're working to post the photos assigned geographic data in the tags to sites like


My 06-07 NCTE Professional Resources catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. I leafed through it, giving it a thorough looky-loo, and while I was curious to find more kits than ever before, here are a few of the literacy education kits I did not find. Maybe next year.

  • Soup of Soups Recipe Writing Kit: Consists of 35 plastic spoons, a dried leg bone from an unidentified farm animal, a cube of bullion, dehydrated carrot flakes, and a stack of Country-classic Style Aunt Bonnie Recipe Cards (blank).
  • What In the Heck Were You Thinking Kit: Inside you'll find a small glassine envelope filled with quick-forget dust, which, when you cast it into the air induces such raucous fits of sneezing that everyone in the class will fail to recall the wrong-headed lesson you danced through on the previous day. Includes a set of handouts for fill-in-the-blank haiku.
  • Remove-A-Tongue Kit: Face it, during the winter months students sometimes put their tongues to the metal poles at recess. Minimize the trauma and embarrassment with this kit. Contents: a Dixie cup for filling with warm, salted water.
  • Singing Aloud Absent Musical Inclination Kit: Cochlea-numbing eardrops.
  • Graffiti Paintball Kit: Contains all of the makings for splattering miscellaneous verbiage on the school grounds. Also includes official-looking invitations to distract up to three administrators with a "lunch away," and two sets of stencils (12" and 28").
  • Testing Your Shakespeare Professor's Coffee Mug Contents for Traces of Liquor Kit: Basically, it's a miniature chemistry lab. Results may take up to ten days to materialize; be patient and continue studying your Lear in the meantime.
  • Whatnot and Detritus Kit: Ships overnight from the Jasper County Landfill. No two Mystery Kits are quite the same, guaranteed.
  • Lame Skit Kit: Two peacock feathers and a Julie Andrews audition cassette tape. Cassette tape player not included.
  • Time to Fill Friday Afternoon Roar For John Kitna Kit: One inflatable Lions fan helmet and a package of 1000 thumb tacks. (Available only in SE Michigan.) Going fast! The first fifty orders include a free autographed Charles Rogers poster.
  • Retired Mobile Devices Sandbox Kit: One 60G iPod with a dead battery, a Nintendo Gameboy and two cell phones along with a twenty pound bag of Malibu sand, and an instructional guide.

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.