Friday, August 31, 2007

Fairwell, Summer

For the third consecutive year (what has happened!?), we ventured out to the NY State Fair and returned with photographic evidence of the carnivralous scene. We did not, however, make any purchases at Fairgaritaville, which proves there are still deeper depths to which we could sink.

Glancing back through the photos, we appear to have keyed on moments of judgment (the gnawed grade report commenting "white spots", the intensely focused goat judge), but we also took part in pulling fish from a trough, witnessed a train ride being repaired and reset to the tracks, and spotted the Sugar Shack where we a small bag of cotton candy won us with its spell.

Bunny Grade Card

Gruff Judge


Train Wreck

In the Distance: Sugar Shack

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Miller, "What Can Automation Tell Us About Agency?"

Miller, Carolyn. "What Can Automation Tell Us About Agency?" RSQ 37.2 (2007): 137-157.

Miller questions the general apprehension teachers have toward the machine scoring of rhetorical performances (i.e., compositions), both oral and written. She begins by accounting for the expanding adoption of automated assessment where computational processes "read" texts and return statements about the text's efficacy that are then used to assess the text. Miller has a bit of fun with this idea, announcing a fictional "new product of interest to rhetoricians" called AutoSpeech-EasyTM, a "computer system for the automated assessment of oral performance in public speaking" (139). Miller refers to AutoSpeech-EasyTM as a thought experiment. She builds up the application, elaborating its many technological advancements, and then conducts an informal survey of 25 people to consider their reactions to the promises of the software. The survey responses represent a range of responses that suggest some of the ways that "automated assessment systems create a situation in which Burkean symbolic action directly confronts nonsymbolic motion in the form of the machine" (140).

Miller deals with this direct confrontation (viz., the clash of symbolic action and mere motion) carefully and with nuance, going over the results of the surveys and commenting on the most evocative statements related to "three dimensions of rhetoric that may help us understand what we want from a concept of agency" (142): performance/performativity (145), audience/addressivity (147), and interaction/interactivity (149). Citing Ronald Green, Miller notes that agency is deeply entangled with "a vision of political change"; this is one reason why agency is so guarded. Another is the "capacity to act"--in both the rhetor and the audience (145). Before dealing with each of the "three dimensions" in turn, Miller restates concerns about computational reduction: "The AutoSpeech-EasyTM thought experiment challenges this double understanding of agency [as a distributed capacity between the rhetoric and audience] by radically truncating the pedagogical situation, leaving the student in a rhetorical desert, demonstrating her capacities to an 'audience' capable only of motion, turning effects into algorithms" (145).

Later in the article, Miller acknowledges the limits of educational assessment as it applies to thinking about automation and agency: "In most educational situations, the possibilities of agency as rhetorical effect are artificially truncated: there is no exigence beyond educational accounting, and the teacher's role is that of a grader, not that of a rhetorical audience capable of enacting change" (148). This sense of truncation is absolutely crucial--and is as much to blame for the objections as is the computational process itself. I mean that the assessable ends of quasi-rhetorical performances in education arbitrarily constrain the performativity of the act--with or without computational assessment. Reconsidering the quotation at the end of the last paragraph, the process of turning "effects into algorithms" applies on every graded occasion, doesn't it? Miller concludes that much of the kinetic energy and possibility for ongoing action is diminished when computer-based algorithms stand in for human audiences. She writes that "out of respect for our students we should not ask them to make such attributions [of "human decency and respect"]" (153) to automatons and robotic graders. Certainly this is a question of responsibility--and adds a protectionism to the agent function where rhetoric is concerned.

One other point: I'm interested in the other places where automation and agency collide, where "effects into algorithms..." ends with an ellipsis, a breech opening to a larger sequence: "effects into algorithms[...back into effects]." I see this loop (is it a cycle? A rough-cycle.) happening with distant reading, with the computational methods put to use in a system such as CCCOA. For pedagogy, sure, automation becomes problematic; it does many of the things the respondents' intuitions suggest to Miller. Next we need to renew questions about automation-inflected rhetorics, where, nonhuman things participate in the network, activating new content, new associations, rather than truncating, reducing, or excising agency.

"Better system design with more interactivity could help bring the rest of us around to this view, as could simple habituation on our part: given sufficient experience and exposure, we may accept these machines as Latourian hybrids to which we unproblematically delegate rhetorical agency, just as we delegate the function of a doorman to an automatic door closer (Latour, "Mixing Humans")" (152).

"Research in interpersonal communication, human-computer interaction, and computer-mediated communication has suggested that we have a very low threshold for ethopoeia: in other words, it doesn't take much for us to be willing to attribute character to an interlocutor, no matter how primitive the cues are" (151).

Phrases: machine scoring (137), automated scoring systems (137), agent function (151), ethopoeia (151), Eliza effect (151), [rel. agentic shift from Milgram and Postman]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bad and Good in Equal Proportion

Good: Ph. and the NHS soccer team participated in a four team preseason scrimmage earlier today and went 3-0.
Bad: I am picking, spreadsheet line by spreadsheet line, through data-tat-tat--536...537...538... article authors who published in CCC since 1987.
G: Ph. rode his bike to soccer practice yesterday.
B: The cheap-o combination lock he used to secure the bike during practice refused to open at the end of practice.
G: Ph. walked home and reported the sad news of the stranded bike.
B: We drove back to the park and tried 45 or so of the 10,000 possible four-digit combinations before returning home for the hacksaw.
G: I had inspiration for a mysterious entry.
B: Nobody inquired as to why we were on the lookout for police: stealing a bike of one's own, broad daylight, public park.
G: WRT105 last night. Quite the group! An encouraging first class session.
B: Do you know how long it took to saw Ph.'s bicycle loose yesterday?
G: I created a Splashcast.
B: ""
G: Ph.'s soccer schedule came out the other day. I have posted it down a couple of scroll-motions on the left sidebar.
B: All but two of the home games will be played on Tuesday and Thursday evenings--while I am teaching.

Richards, How To Read A Page

Richards, I.A. How To Read A Page. Boston: Beacon Press, 1942.

HTRAP demonstrates Richards' variation on close reading. His approach is intent on addressing and resolving (to the extent possible) misunderstanding. Building on the ideas briefly put forward in Speculative Instruments and in Principles of Literary Criticism, Richards says he "is trying to devise another sort of verbal machine: something which may be a help in using books as machines to think with" (9). Mechanisms for thinking are focused on textuality--words and meanings--more than in something from the same era, like Bush's "As We May Think" (1945). Richards reiterates points he made two years earlier in "The Resourcefulness of Words," preferring 'resourcefulness' to 'ambiguity' and noting that "[w]ords get their values from their togetherness and enter into infinitely subtler and more manifold relations to one another than any addition can represent" (237). Whether or not Richards falls neatly into (the middle of) the New Critics is a question I'm not prepared to resolve just yet. He enacts a method that certainly could be described as close reading, but it's not the sort of close reading motivated by an aesthetic imperative so much as it is motivated by the co-existing elliptical and emphatic qualities of words. Richards seems to me to be making a case for understanding the interdependence of words and more: their power of expansion. Certainly his writing is pre-digital, but there are traces in Richards that match up reasonably well with semantic networks: the net-like paths of activation that a single word or term can touch off.

No question there are features to this book that stand out as odd, such as the list of 103 "most important words" (22). But if there is more--particularly in the thread that follows Richards to Berthoff to Haynes to contemporary, theoretically invested arguments for the value in abstraction (as a network phenomenon?), then Richards deserves more nuanced consideration for the way he uses words to wander--connectively--from passage to passage, piling through the systematic ambiguity of language. At the very least, abstraction makes possible the connective leap--the relay the lets meaning play horizontally and not only vertically (as in the General Semanticist's Ladder of Abstraction).

"Modern historical scholarship especially terrorizes us with the suggestion that somewhere in the jungle of evidence there is something we happen not to know which would make the point clear, which would show us just what the author did in fact mean. That suspicion of a missing clue is paralyzing--unless we remember firmly that from the very nature of the case essential clues are always missing. However much evidence we amass, we still have to jump to our conclusions" (14).

"A chief modern difficulty in such understanding comes from the recent development of the historical sense" (13). On the abundance of reading available to us and the many devices (dictionaries, concordances, histories, and biographies) that might make reading--in the face of such abundance--easier.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Said Today, Less Context

"You don't see any police, do you?"




Previously on "STLC."

Porter, et al., "Institutional Critique"

Porter, James E., Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey Grabill, and Libby Miles. "Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change." CCC 51.4 (2000): 610-642.

To the extent that institutions are rhetorical constructs, rhetoric can be deployed to enact change across a range of institutional scales, from the micro to the macro. Boiled down: "Though institutions are certainly powerful, they are not monoliths: they are rhetorically constructed human designs (whose power is reinforced by buildings, laws, traditions, and knowledge-making practices) and so are changeable" (611). Porter et al. see the institution as a unit of analysis; as an alternative to despairing about institutional conditions, the institution can be changed through deliberate, strategic forms of action.

Porter et. al. invoke postmodern geography--particularly David Harvey, David Sibley, Gillian Rose, and Edward Soja (para. on influences, 613c)--to renew a methodology for institutional change that is fluid, flexible, and scalable across the various orders of the institution, from the classroom to the extra-institutional forces from the discipline-at-large. They position their "spin [as] more locally situated, more spatial, and more empirical than most theoretical discussions of institutions" (613). This new methodology is presented "to enable certain forms of research action to emerge and take shape" (612). Changeability is crucial here; the methodology insists on the pliability of institutions rather than seeing them as monoliths--the result of dealing with institutions in the abstract or of the opposite problem in regarding the material as immovable.

Porter et al. recap the efforts of James Sosnoski and Michael Berube to argue for disciplinary change through "the reform of disciplinary practice," but they add that institutional critique (a different scale) is also crucial to changing disciplinarity (here identified somewhat inclusively as "English Studies" (618)) (619).

Important contributions include their effort to pluralize their mapping efforts:
"Because there is not one, holy map that captures the relationships inherent to the understanding of an institution, all of these relationships exist simultaneously in the lives--actual, material--space of an institution" (623). Neither the production of space nor the production of maps is singular; accepting any space as singular or any map as comprehensive introduces fairly obvious problems. Still, there remains a problem of the limits of pluralizing maps (for them to be effective they must not be infinite) and of deciding how to present selections of the relationships that exist simultaneously.


"Talking about institutions at this macro level is extremely important (as we argued earlier in respect to WPAs) because it is one way to discuss how our public lives are organized and conducted (both for us and by us). But limiting our analytic gaze to macro institutions also encourages a level of abstraction that can be unhelpful if it leads to a view of institutions as static, glacial, or even unchangeable (i.e., if it urges us to see changes a resulting large-scale action that few people rarely have the power to enforce)" (620). They prefer a micro-level view of institutions because it makes change via rhetorical acts seem more plausible (more agency at the micro-level).

"We use some of the ways that [cultural geography scholars] deploy visual analysis to question and destabilize institutions, to provide an alternative route to interrogating how power circulates in particular institutions, and to complicate our construction of institutions" (620).

"We don't like forms of cultural or institutional critique that stay at a macro level of high-theory discussion, which makes the institution a monolith--easy to criticize but impossible to change. Of course, as we have said, in rhetoric/composition there is a long-standing and vigorous tradition of disciplinary critique. Yet we have been frustrated by how disciplinary critique and institutional action have typically operated in the field. For one thing, such critique usually focuses on a limited set of organizational spaces: the composition classroom, the first-year composition curriculum, the English department. Well, okay, that's where most of us live--but we are frustrated by the nearly exclusive focus on these organizational unites to the neglect of others" (625). This passage goes on to call for attention to spaces outside the institution.

To sum up:

  • "Institutional critique examines structures from a spatial, visual, and organizational perspective."
  • "Institutional critique looks for gaps or fissures, places where resistance and change a re possible."
  • Institutional critique undermines the binary between theory and empirical research by engaging in situated theorizing and relating that theorizing through stories of change and attempted change." (631)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Belt Belt Belt of Verbs

Today is Start-of-Semester Day in Syracuse (even if I don't teach until tomorrow). How better to celebrate the occasion than by adding a verb to the belt of verbs (and thereby contributing to the Greater Verbiage)?

He'd discourse on the animals' diets, reproduction, life spans, their interesting and unusual characteristics. (48)

A rare sighting of discourse as verb. Tracy Kidder wrote this about Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains (a book which I will think of as Verbs Beyond Verbs from this point forward).

Friday, August 24, 2007

Peeples, "'Seeing' the WPA With/Through Postmodern Mapping"

Peeples, Tim. "'Seeing' the WPA With/Through Postmodern Mapping." The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher. Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser, eds. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1999. 153-167.

Peeples devises a set of maps in an effort to "capture a sense of spatial positioning and the fragmentation of [Wedy] Bishop's position" as the WPA at Florida State in the late 1990's. Postmodern geography influences Peeples' project, allowing him to combine experimental maps and narrative accounts that together present the complex and multiply implicated subjectivities of a WPA whose organizational role is entangled with disciplinary, administrative, and organizational discourses.

In the end, it's not entirely clear where Peeples finds a useful distinction between subjectivities entangled in (and constructed from) discourse and those wrapped up in the material locale itself. The progression of maps tend to highlight the ways Bishop's WPA subjectivity is discursive, and a footnote backs this impression, but elsewhere Peeples seems also to recognize the implicatedness of the material site, such as when he says that "[e]thnographies would help our field better understand the details and complexities of these local spaces" (159) and also when he invokes Porter and Sullivan's Opening Spaces and "Institutional Critique" article--both of which foreground the local and material.

Three of Peeples' strategies here are especially significant for me:

  1. He doesn't establish a correspondence between maps and models, but he does present the maps as partial isomorphs (in the way Pemberton discusses them): "One of the ways we attempt to see something that is fragmented and dynamic is to place it against a relatively stable background, whereby we can at least mark its movements across space" (154).
  2. Peeples presents multiple maps: "This approach encourages the development of an expanding set of maps that begin to capture the complexities of WPA organizational subjectivities, rather than leading to a grand, unified image or Theory represented in a single map" (155). Map as monolith is out.
  3. Finally, he comments on what the map-text complementarity (text, here, not as symbol system or legend): "The text surrounding these multiple maps should, then, comment on what is privileged and obscured in the maps and even suggest what other maps might be possible" (155). The text might also address the limitations of the map, although Peeples doesn't bring this up explicitly.

On subjectivity, Peeples cites Faigley's Fragments of Rationality and Janangelo's 1995 essay, "Theorizing Difference and Negotiating Differends." The maps themselves evoke a number of questions about choices for shading (a gradient backshadow represents something less fixed than an outlined oval) and positioning (cycles giving way to intersections giving way to a periphery of "ideals").

"Rather than use terms such as 'role' and 'identity' that signify stable, unified positions, 'subjectivity' has become a key term because it signifies the dynamism, multiplicity, and fragmentation of people/positions" (153). Here, aligning with terms--subjectivity is preferable to roles and identities because it clicks with the theoretical orientation that ascribes some value to postmodern mapping.

Moon: Green Cheese

Whether or not the moon is made of green cheese is of no concern to my dissertation. Because I make other claims, however, Latour's account of the performance of statements and things in Science in Action (1987) applies:

[W]e have to remember our first principle: the fate of a statement depends on others' behavior. You may have written the definitive paper proving that the earth is hollow and that the moon is made of green cheese but this paper will not become definitive if others do not take it up and use it as a matter of fact later on. You need them to make your paper a decisive one. If they laugh at you, if they are indifferent, if they shrug it off, that is the end of your paper. A statement is thus always in jeopardy, much like the ball in a game of rugby. If no player takes it up, it simply sits on the grass. To have it move again you need an action, for someone to seize and throw it; but the throw depends in turn on the hostility, speed, deftness or tactics of the others. At any point, the trajectory of the ball may be interrupted, deflected or diverted by the other team--playing here the role of the dissenters--and interrupted, deflected or diverted by the players of your own team. The total movement of the ball, of a statement, or an artefact, will depend to some extent on your action but to a much greater extent on that of a crowd over which you have little control. (104)

Must every statement be written as if it will endure the perpetual jeopardy Latour names? Not necessarily. But--and this gets at the challenge of making statements--"the total movement...of a statement" should be, to the extent possible, anticipated, even if this requires granting too much clout to the crowd (i.e., audience in action).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Starred Items

In Google Reader, my feed-reader of choice, I accumulate digital curios, gems, and passing oddities a-plenty, and often I designate the really special treasures as such by clicking "Add Star." Trouble is, I am a pack-rat when it comes to hoarding away the starred items. Stars and the items they make twinkle are abundant; they pile up and up and up. Somehow G.R. keeps stashing them away as "saved"--logging them into my own special, if buried, collection. I need a system for releasing the starred items from their vault. And so, an installment of "Starred Items":

Even now they are not easy for me to un-star.

Richards, "The Resourcefulness of Words"

Richards, I.A. "The Resourcefulness of Words." Speculative Instruments. Chicago: U. of Chicago P, 1955. 72-78.

"Are we perhaps like mathematicians who had never thought of using the working of examples as a technique of instruction?" (77).

I.A. Richards ends "The Resourcefulness of Words" with this, posing a question of limitations, narrow perspectives, and a missed opportunity in thinking through the techniques of instruction appropriate to a course in dialectic (which, in this context, I take to refer to argumentation). This statement bears some resemblance to the David Foster quotation from JAC I have referred to again and again about the limits of what we will know.

Richards is responding to the suggestion from the President of Yale (Mr. Hutchins) that nothing coheres a course in argumentation, nothing "except talk of personality, 'character', and great teachers, the slogans of educational futilitarianism" (73). But what holds the course in argumentation together, answers Richards, is the resourcefulness of words--their versatility, their crucial part in structuring and connecting (ideas and things).

To a degree, Richards is concerned with stasis--with ways specific language in philosophy and metaphysics can lead to misunderstanding. His rhetoric is one that reconciles, patching up misunderstandings caused by words. He is not interested in "attempting to show our students (much less tell them) what Plato or Aristotle really meant" (76). Rather, students would study the ways shifting meanings in "central intellectual terms" (viz., being, have, cause, connection, same, etc.) has "give[n] rise to varied misunderstandings" (76).

The challenge I find in working with Richards is his proximity to New Criticism. Following through what Berthoff adds in "Abstraction as a Speculative Instrument," and what Haynes does, subsequently, to invoke Berthoff's notion of abstraction as a beginning point and an answer for pedagogies seeking to move beyond reason and argumentation, I would expect to find, in Richards, something that resonates with abstraction in this discussion of the resourcefulness of words. Maybe it will turn up in How To Read A Page, in chapters called "Random Scratching and Clawing" (the rustle of language?) or "To Unite, Abstract." Distant reading methods do not, per se, read a page, but a pile of pages.

The section on more expansive abstracting practices can get by without Richards. Yet his concluding thoughts in this brief essay relate to the semantic networks that are presented in, among other forms, tagclouds:

To develop a spatial metaphor here, which being all but unavoidable should be made as explicit as possible, all these words wander in many directions in this figurative space of meaning. But they wander systematically, as do those other wanderers, the Planets. By fixing a limited number of positions, meanings, for them, we may help ourselves to plot their courses. But we should not persuade ourselves that they must be at one or other of these marked points. The laws of their motions are what we need to know: their dependence upon the positions of other words that should be taken into account with them. (77)

In a fairly obvious sense, Richards is talking about context here. Words appear on a page, spatialized there--arranged in such a way that their sequentiality is implicated in their meanings. But I see no reason why this spatialization, this systematically observable wandering, and this hesitancy to fixate--why any of these should be incompatible with tagcloud as a visual model of a semantic network that drifts breezily along the same trajectories as the discipline of composition studies. Doesn't Keywords in Composition--"the first systematic inquiry into compositions' critical terms" (1)--advance this very idea? Yes. But Keywords in Composition Studies, like the class of texts dedicated to keyword extrapolation, including Williams' Keywords, is limited by its mode of presentation to a historical account of a term's wandering. [This is better elaborated in c. 3 than in c. 2]. The "systematic ambiguity" bears a past-ist orientation; its refresh rate is nullified by the limitations of its medium--print.

Note: Heilker and Vandenberg cite Richards' Speculative Instruments and How To Read A Page, but rather than going to the original publications, they draw on the excerpts reprinted in Enos and Brown's Professing the New Rhetorics: A Sourcebook.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Chreod: Alignment of Set-ups

Reading more than writing today, I planned to get down notes on another run through Porter, Sullivan, et. al.'s "Institutional Critique," (re: my own little life raft in postmodern geography) the same for Richards' short piece on "The Resourcefulness of Words," from Speculative Instruments (re: wandering resourcefulness, another spatial, and I would say networked, consideration) , and the same, yet again, for Miller's latest (Spring 2007) RSQ essay on automation, agency, and assessment, "What Can Automation Tell Us about Agency?"--not for the diss., this last one, but because I need to know more about it before responding to an email marked urgent. Only, rather than note-making, the day turned to night, and my efforts grew more digressive when I sought out one of Miller's references to Latour, an article I hadn't heard of called, "Mixing Humans and Nonhumans Together: The Sociology of a Door-Closer" (Social Problems 35.3). Here is Latour, er, "Jim Johnson," at his most playful. Terrific. Coincidentally, I also have an special place in my heart for compression door-closers.

A selection:

A scene, a text, an automatism can do a lot of things to their prescribed users at close range, but most of the effect finally ascribed to them depends on a range of other set-ups being aligned. For instance, the groom closes the door only if there are people reaching the Sociology Department of Walla Walla. These people arrive in front of the door only if they have found maps and only if there are roads leading to it; and, of course, people will start bothering about reading the maps, getting to Washington state and pushing the door open only if they are convinced that the department is worth visiting. I will call this gradient of aligned set-ups that endow actors with the pre-inscribed competences to find its users a chreod (a "necessary path" in the biologist Waddington's Greek): people effortlessly flow through the door, and the groom, hundreds of times a day, recloses the door-when it is not stuck. The result of such an alignment of set-ups is to decrease the number of occasions in which words are used; most of the actions become silent, familiar, incorporated (in human or in nonhuman bodies)-making the analyst's job so much harder. (308)

Before reading this, I'd never heard of chre-od ("we need" and "path"...a variation of met-hod, no? needful path or necessary path). For me, Latour, as usual, triggers a number of clicks and instigations. Something in the effortless flow and series of set-ups reminds me of disciplinarity and institution (Porter and Sullivan's concerns), but in a way that lightens the load on discursive structuring of these entities. Chreod incorporates actions in such a way that demands a rhetoric suited to the extra- (or is it non-?)discursive (institutions and disciplines are rhetorical constructs, but that's not all...Porter and Sullivan make this point, more or less directly, I would say, in their emphasis on the micro).

For reasons that are hard for me to pinpoint, I appreciate that chreod--this alignment of set-ups--turns away from words. Or it doesn't rely exclusively on inscription. It's not all textuality that determines the chreod. Texts are influential, yes, but actions, (redundant) performances, and things are, arguably, as forceful in the "holding together" of this alignment. Would Richards, in suggesting the resourcefulness of words as adequate for holding together a dialectic course of study, be receptive to this expansion that saves room for non-human actors and their speechless persuasion?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Flower, Scriver, Stratman, Carey, and Hayes, "Cognitive Process in Revision"

Flower, Linda S., Karen A. Scriver, James F. Stratman, Linda Carey, and John R. Hayes. "Cognitive Processes in Revision." Advances in Applied Psycholinguistics. Sheldon Rosenberg ed. New York: Cambridge, 1987. 176-240.

This team-authored article advances the cognitive process work done by Flower and Hayes in the early 1980's by modeling the sub-processes of (generic) revision. The models were derived from protocol studies where expert and novice participants talked through the work of revision. This chapter comes less than a year after the same group's 1987 Braddock Award winning essay, "Detection, Diagnosis, and Strategies of Revision," which bears a high degree of similarity to this piece.

The point of their study is to "present a new model of the revision process in written composition--a model based on the results of thinking-aloud protocol studies" (176). If the 1981 cognitive process model can be said to have evolved--to have moved, that is, in any way at all--it is through this work on revision, through this presentation of a new (sub-)model. Importantly, here they name the model as a "theoretical model." What makes it theoretical? "Theoretical" seems to suggest that is extrapolated (i.e., removed) from the protocols. Maybe they are presented so as to achieve a degree of generality (in scale) adequate to stand in for the gist of the protocols. The theoretical model lends granularity to the complex data; it carries a substitutive property.

This model has a visual corollary--an outcropping of the cognitive process model from 1981. Boxes and arrows--like the 1981 specter--the processes of revision are slotted into a taxonomy and linearized.

Revision Model, p 185

The relation of these two models (the new and the old) in this article follow newness--child before parent. This is the opposite of the sequence of presentation in CCC, in "Detection, Diagnosis, and Strategies of Revision," where they are brought on stage the only other way possible: first parent, then child. Does this matter?

Included here are other interesting dimensions of their study: discussions of task definitions and problem representations (how can I fix this mess?). These are the particulars of the study--a checklist of tasks, considerations of the ways experts and novices are distinct from one another. I won't, for now, dwell too much on the details of the terminology, the study itself, or the suggested results (a continuum model to account for a spectrum of activity for revising and rewriting). The visual models and the discursive explanations of the models and the schemes they reify shifts--it evolves--in a moment like this one. The singular, blocky cognitive model, a monument since 1981, bears out something new in 1987--a model of revision.

Cognitive Process Model, p 186 (from 1981)

Phrases: Cooper and Holzman critique (180), models (180), theory-building (185), task definitions (190), task environment (191), problem-presentation process (192), scope (217)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Flower, Swarts, and Hayes, "Designing Protocol Studies of the Writing Process: An Introduction"

Flower, Linda S., Heidi Swarts, and John R. Hayes. "Designing Protocol Studies of the Writing Process: An Introduction." New Directions In Composition Research. Richard Beach and Lillian S. Bridwell, eds. New York: Guilford, 1984. 53-71.

The team of authors present this essay as a practical variation of protocol analysis much different from the theoretical treatment they published in 1983. Protocol studies, they explain, focus on "individual processes" and they operate in the interest of what they call "close modeling" (53). "Close modeling" designates that the model is an intermediary between the minutiae of acts carried out by the individual writer and larger tendencies that can be traced across most writers when they write (given a regular, stated task or assignment).

The protocol produces a sequential record of the individual processes, and, because it is extraordinarily detailed, it produces too much information (56). How do researchers respond when there is too much data? Computational methods. Limited scope. More deliberate selections. Samples, etc. From the collection regimen, protocol analysts proceed with the classification of activity according to a regularized process for writing--the cognitive process model Flower and Hayes introduced in 1981. Analysts, called "judges," study the protocols for "episodes" or moments when there is a shift in focus or attention. Also, protocol studies are compatible with four methods: 1.) exploratory (what if); 2.) comparative (similarity and differentiation); 3.) hypothesis and testing; and 4.) modeling of the writing process. This fourth and final point gets the lightest treatment. Why? Also, there is very little discussion of what models do, or how they are presented, set into motion, circulated, and so on.

What discussion there is of what a model does is limited to this:

"Our own efforts have been to model the cognitive processes in writing, that is, to describe the key mental processes and their organization. Modeling not only creates a theoretical framework for studying writing, but tries to account for how people actually carry out the complex process of composing" (68).

Models "describe"; they "create a theoretical framework," and they aid in accounting for complex processes. A tall order! Can models do all of this? Later, the group states that "[w]hether it is fully articulated or barely conscious, we all bring a 'model' or set of assumptions to research, which to a large degree guides our questioning" (69). Models are, then, "set[s] of assumptions," too. I can't hurry through each of these ways of pinning "models" to a particular function. But it does begin to seem like the notion of "modeling" itself becomes a free agent--a Katamari ball ricocheting off of too many matters for it to make any sense at all. Are models descriptive? Is this true of both discursive and presentational (i.e., visual) models? Do models create a "theoretical framework" or a "conceptual framework," and what is the difference (see Pemberton)? Models come to our rescue where complexity is concerned, but they might also move us toward complexity rather than always away from it. I mean that while many models simplify, they can also complicate--unsettle commonplaces, and so on.

My general sense is that "models" and "model-making" becomes a catch-all--a safety net for switching scales. Move from minutia (specificity and precision) to broader orders: turn to a model. Move from broader magnitudes back to the atomistic: a model. Still, the visual model from Flower and Hayes' 1981 essay shows up here, unchanged (an ancestor in an aging photograph):


"While this profusion of unselective data may seem overwhelming, it is actually this method's hidden strength: the very completeness of the picture of the writing process provides a check on the researcher's hypotheses" (53). The points about selectivity and hidden strength are interesting, but the "completeness of the picture of the writing process" seems like an impossible pursuit. Still, even in light of post-process departures from routine, we have to wonder whether there is something lasting in the challenge of too much data, the decisions of what to do when faced with too much data, and even the use of less formal measures to get at what writers are thinking about when they compose.

"Thinking-aloud protocols, which provide some of the content of the writer's thoughts, give us many more data from which to draw inferences" (55). Hmm.

"A protocol is a versatile research tool: it captures information from a writer while the writer is engaged in a whole range of composing subprocesses and behaviors" (65). Reminds me of Twitter. And although much of this work has slid into technical communications--studies of tasks and activity among designers, for instance--it causes me to wonder about the capturing of information--field-wide metadata--tied to other scales of production, like what is called a "discipline."

Phrases: judges (68), float-dive in Atlantic Ocean (56) (method is not for the un-prepared); planning, translating, reviewing (60); model (69), episodes (58)

All You Can Eat

It's very rare that we eat at buffets. The quality of buffet food, in nearly all cases, is degraded by the bulk effect. Yet, with buffets come choices, flexibility, a hot-n-ready preparedness that means no waiting. buffet.jpgLast night we were out and about gathering up new cleats and shin guards for Ph.'s approaching soccer season (pre-season starts tomorrow). We stopped off at Old Country Buffet for dinner. The food was exactly the same as it is at every Old Country Buffet. It triggered a few memories.

I haven't eaten at an Old Country Buffet or any buffet for that matter since we moved to New York in 2004. I might be wrong about this; I can't remember if I had lunch with my aunt and uncle at a Ponderosa last summer. Seems so. Seems like it was a buffet. Seems like I suffered mightily for the entire drive home from Cooperstown to Syracuse. Might-ily, might-ily.

In Kansas City it was somewhat more common for us to go to an all-you-can eat joint. One Chinese restaurant near where we lived had a nice set of options, and the buffet there was affordable. Made as much sense, I mean, to go with the buffet rather than ordering an entree. And the river boat casinos in KC, like most casinos I've been in, go overboard with their buffets. Even there, we ate at them occasionally--when family was visiting (usually because nobody can agree on what would be a decent meal).

I remember that we went to buffets sometimes when I was a kid. I was trained early on that the point of a buffet is to get one over on the unwitting restaurant management by cramming your pie-hole with the most rare and valuable foods. Do not eat the insta-mix mashed potatoes (valued at .003 dollars per unit measure) but instead eat breaded shrimp (.179 per unit measure). That'll show them! We'll get our money's worth. Also, eat enough for the next day. And the next day after that if you can stomach it. Buffet-eating is a science; it must be executed flawlessly so that not one cent of the $9.95 would be spent in vain. This also meant no pop (we called 'soda' pop in Mich.) and no starches. Even when it was the Arthur Treacher's Friday night all-you-can eat fish buffet, it was better if we munched whitefish fillet after whitefish fillet rather than fries and hush puppies.

In college, conference schools were located on the east side of Missouri and in southern Illinois. During any given basketball season, we'd drive the I-70 corridor as many as six or seven times for our away games at Harris-Stowe, Missouri Baptist, Lindenwood, or Columbia College. From Kansas City, St. Louis is a four hour drive by bus. And because buffets offer choices, flexibility, a hot-n-ready preparedness, we would stop, on most road trips, at the same Old Country Buffet somewhere around O'Fallon or St. Charles. Same spot, year after year. Same buffet spread--the same, in fact, as we saw last night here in Syracuse.

When I was a freshman, I didn't see consistent minutes, but neither could I predict when one of the bigs ahead of me would get into foul trouble, so I had to prepare as if. Well, in one of those first trips to St. Louis--a trip to play at Mo. Baptist--we stopped at the Old Country buffet. I sat at a table with "Oozy" a senior who got his nickname because he shot wildly and unrestrainedly without a care for how many he'd taken. We were running a bit late for the game, and I mentioned to Oozy that I would not be stuffing myself in case I saw some court time later that night. He laughed at me, reminded me how good MBC was that year, and told me I was foolish if I left the Old Country anything short of full. Made sense.

So I had two or three plates of bread pudding.

Well, of course, the story would have it that our starting center picked up three fouls in the first five minutes of action. I played that night, played more than I had in any other game up to that point in the season. And I did it while feeling so desperately full and nauseous that I couldn't wait for it to end (the stomach pain, not the game). Buffets would never be the same for me after that. And now, nearly 15 years later, I can't walk into a buffet without retelling the story about Oozy and the wrongheaded advice he gave me at the Old Country Buffet just outside of St. Louis.

Close Modeling

Flower and Hayes refer to their studies of talk-aloud protocols as "close modeling" (53) ("Designing Protocol Studies...", Hayes, Flower, Swarts, 1984). Close modeling suggests models that are slotted at a certain scale. For protocol studies, the scale is the solitary writer who is given a specific (if dull) writing task, who then executes the writing task, and who reports on the writing process according to a pre-determined processual scheme.

The famous visual model (from the CCC article in 1981) plays only a minor role in this discussion of close modeling. The visual model is presented once more in "Designing," reiterated with so little explicit treatment that its structuring function is more or less obvious and settled. I mean that it has not changed in the three intervening years. The visual model is static, inert, a monument.

How did we get from close reading to close modeling, and are they stationed in the same New Critical wheelhouse? Maybe a better question is whether the relationship between reading and modeling can be further pulled apart, broken down. I don't want to conflate reading with modeling, but I find it strange (and due for consideration, if nothing more) that reading touches on a receptive stance while modeling is comparably assertive or productive.

I'm not directly interested in protocol studies or the methods explained by Flower and Hayes to undertake such studies. The visual model from 1981 interests me, instead, for the way it haunts so much subsequent scholarship, for the way it makes unexamined (even un-seen, ghostly) appearances for many years after it was first presented. Why doesn't this visual model change, even when it turns up again and again in very different examinations of cognitive activity, revision, the writing process, and so on? How does its persistence infiltrate (perhaps even skew) the mythos of models (model-making, model-building, etc.) related to composition and rhetoric? The un-changing reappearance of the Flower and Hayes cognitive process model over so many years might suggest complacency toward the visual (why give it an update?). It's longevity begins to seem zombie-like--an undead model has chased off all others who would dare. Composition and rhetoric are cleared of models by this one.

But this isn't entirely true. Kinneavy's triangle hearkens to a classical rhetorical tradition. And there are many such triangles. Bitzer's is a model, even if it isn't drawn (models need not be visual, but the visual ones interest me more than the discursive ones). I mean that Kinneavy's model invoked associations with nobler company--a tradition in rhetoric that engulfed the new composition studies in the early 60's. Flower and Hayes' undead model, on the other hand, came from cognitive psychology, a field that enjoyed a coincident resurgence to that of disciplinary emergence and stabilization of composition studies. Still, there are other models. Porter and Sullivan share a visual model for institutional change and theorize the model's dynamism and portability (translatability?) drawing on postmodern geography. Tim Peeples, modeling the WPA as a highly connected node in a network, asserts the two-dimensional static (i.e., paper-bound) model as hyper, adaptive, and mobile (use your imagination!). Flower and Hayes' model, however, is the one that returns, re-occurs, inert and dressed in the same clothes it wore in 1981. I am tempted to argue that this haunts us--even haunts the visual in composition studies.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Spill, Aisle 4.0

Expecting it to take no more than 30 or 40 minutes, I attempted to upgrade to Movable Type 4.0 early last evening. With all of the hubbub about the new release, I thought there was a chance the process would go somewhat more smoothly than it did. I backed everything up and FTPed over the new files. But when I attempted to initiate the upgrade, I kept getting 500 Server Errors. Icdsoft customer service is usually very helpful, but this time they pointed me right back to Six Apart.

Eventually, I decided to delete the entire installation--go with a new installation, that is, rather than an upgrade. After deleting everything, I installed the new version. It worked well this time. The trouble was with the previous installation was drawing on a junk heap of plugins I acquired along the way--"the way" being more three years of slapdash accumulations.

I'm using MT4 now, but I'm ambivalent about the changes. The dashboard is different. Is it better? I don't know yet. I'm not sure I like the extended entry input area appearing under a tab, and I haven't figured out how to customize it. My first impression is that the improvements are cosmetic and/or negligible.

Greater frustration for me comes from having to reinstall all of the plugins I have been gathering over time and finding that--sadly--some of them do not work. The templates I use have tags that are unrecognized in MT 4: MTRelatedEntries, MTIfTrackbackAllowed, and MTLoopValue among them. I used related entries to associate entries based on keywords, especially in my notes blog. MTLoop relies on a new syntax I haven't figured out yet, and there's no telling when I'll have time to plod through the operators to revise the code I had been using. Oh, and MTBlogroll is defunct. No real loss here. I can--and have--easily switched to a manual blogroll, and it's not as though the list fluctuates all that greatly like it once did. But all of these changes mean picking over the templates I've pieced together over the years and dumping the unrecognized tags or, at the very least, enclosing them in MTIgnore as a temporary fix. Yeah, it feels like cleaning up a spill--the new fandangled installation that brought not only a slick dashboard but also a cascade of glitches in the templates backing the entire operation.

Added: The upgrade is growing on me. MTIfTrackbackAllowed is now some variation of MTEntryIfAllowPings or MTIfAllowPings. MTRelatedEntries appears to have been dropped. No big deal, I suppose. But MTLoops has left me puzzling over this snippet:

<MTIfNonEmpty tag="EntryKeywords"> <MTGlueContainer><MTLoop value="[MTEntryKeywords]" delimiter=" ">
<a href="<$MTLoopvalue$>"><$MTLoopvalue$></a><MTGlue>, </MTGlue></MTLoop></MTGlueContainer><br></MTIfNonEmpty>

The idea here is that an entry with keywords assigned will, when published, show those keywords as a list of links to my account. I can't sort through the family of tags that I need to correct this. I suspect it involves MTVar, but I can't be sure (nor can I get it to work). So I've signed up for the forums and will wait for my forum ID to activate so I can post this puzzle and get it solved.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Job Seekers' Wiki

Over at the Academic Careers wiki, I just created a page for composition and rhetoric-related positions in the upcoming hiring cycle. Bookmark and contribute!

Okay, so maybe it's a little bit early to be fiddling with this. On the other hand, it's never too early to get the word out. And don't worry, I won't post a standalone blog entry about it every time I make a change over there (although I might post a follow-up).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Speculative Instruments

I've taken lately to thinking about the thinspreaden feeling of dissertating like this: the writing moves in a forward direction, advancing ideas and discussions, attempting claims, suggesting reasons for limiting the discussion to these few pages. The reading, on the other hand, moves in a backward direction, filing through influences before influences before influences--something like tracking the (non-)origin of the Missouri River. Writing and reading in this way at once leads to the thinspreaden feeling--it is a stretch.

For example, I was, for a while (~15 pp.), writing about abstraction. The very concept of abstraction. From Cynthia Haynes to Berthoff. Berthoff's work with abstraction draws from I. A. Richards and Susanne Langer. I trailed off, reading some of Langer's work in Philosophy in a New Key and Philosophical Sketches. I also have a copy of Feeling and Form on my night stand. I've read zero pages of it. Every time I leaf it through, I feel this dreadful drain of energy until...lights out. I can see the tiny threads of influence running from Langer to Berthoff, but I still can't decide how much I need to write about them or how explicit those familiarities should be in the chapter itself. Langer and Berthoff have in common that they attempt to recover abstraction from the General Semantics movements and their strict verticalization of the Ladder of Abstraction. They tug abstraction over to the side of connotation, to the side of the "rustle" of language, away from scientistic referentiality. Were they successful? I don't know.

But what they were attempting accords with what I am trying to emphasize, following Moretti, in the discussion of visual models as abstract. Why call them abstract? The data they present are concrete enough (he calls the "consequences" concrete)? I mean that the data are replicable; any other researcher would come up with the same citation counts for articles published in CCC over the past 20 years, no? Berthoff reworked abstraction in her '86 essay "Abstraction as a Speculative Instrument." "Speculative Instruments" matches up with the title of I. A. Richards' book from 1955. It's a collection of "pieces [that] were composed at different times and for very different occasions and audiences" (ix). One six-page "piece" stands out: "The Resourcefulness of Words" which comes "[f]rom a Bergen Lecture given at Yale in 1940." It goes at matters of comprehension and interpretation: language is ambiguous, meanings are multiple. There is a certain "wandering" quality to the resourcefulness of words, Richards explains, trying to finesse systematic misunderstandings in language and this wandering quality. A few pages of this were reprinted in Enos and Brown's Professing the New Rhetorics. Richards also mentions that this short piece developed into his book, How To Read A Page. That stretch I mentioned earlier, it is sometimes a yawn (or a yowl of exasperation).

Another opportunity in this for digression (or call it redirection): Will I connect How To Read A Page with distant reading and the abstract visual models produced by these methods? Maybe. But not yet. I like the riff that goes for distant reading as How To Read An Epitome (of Composition)--something along the lines of layering metadata onto relatively stable forms (i.e., models), shoring up disciplinary data-sets, and so on.

What else can I say about Richards' Speculative Instruments? What a shame that the title--a title I like--was used up on this grab bag of "pieces." With this in mind, Berthoff's "Abstraction as a Speculative Instrument" comes back into the spotlight. For the chunk of this diss on the concept of abstraction, Berthoff's piece will have to do the leg work. But it shouldn't have to do all of the heavy lifting. Sure, there's Langer, but that's not the direction I want to go in. Berthoff's recuperation of abstraction--a recuperation Haynes says failed and must be broached once again--sticks with abstraction as forming. Berthoff entangles concept formation and writing as knowing: "[Abstraction] can show us how to think of forming concepts as a matter of composing" (236). Continuing, she goes at issues of writing across the curriculum (the relevance of language to all disciplines) and also to "abstraction as a speculative instrument [that] can help us re-think the nature of the relationship of 'the contingent and the particular' to 'the general orders" (237). I can't decide whether this last part has more to do with compositionists being "great minds" or whether it is an allusion to scalability constrained by the General Semanticist's Ladder analogy (referentiality, from particular to obtuse). Berthoff's is a discussion of abstraction I find to be slotted with a space for what, of late, is more commonly discussed in terms of networks, traces, and formative, inventive association--abstraction as forming (with or without reference to "speculative instruments" and the "wandering resourcefulness" of words) gives way not to a Ladder of Abstraction, which Berthoff firmly and persuasively argues against, but to networks, impermanent paths of activation, instigating clicks of fascination and intensity, and various other evocative, uncanny encounters. It's on this point that the pre-digital foundation of Berthoff's work on abstraction seems most conspicuous.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Over the weekend, vandals ransacked the Construction Site of Legends to the tune of $10,000 in damages. The city school district has responded with measures that involve hiring sentries who will watch the field from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until the facility opens in early September.

According to an article in today's Syracuse Post-Standard (obnoxious zip/age profile-filter!),

"Do drugs I promise they're good" was sprayed on the 40-yard line of the stadium's new turf. "CBA '07" was sprayed on the visitors bleachers, and "CBA Seniors '07" was on construction equipment at the site, according to police.

No culprits, unfortunately. CBA is the school Nottingham opens its football and soccer seasons against in a couple of weeks. Little point in speculating about whether CBA students had a hand in any of it. Whether or not they did, the whole episode makes the rivalry seem more rivalrous. I'm also thinking about the spectrum of graffitist acts--from the flash mural (sprayed in a frenzy) onto some dull retaining wall to more deliberate efforts to mark, ruin, or inflict costly damages.

Daycare, Day Two


All done with your rice cereal and bananas?


Diaper change?


Jog with Y. to the park for few minutes on the swings?


No more books. It's time for a nap.


Let's put in a Baby Signs DVD. "This sign means cat...."


We're just putzing around, setting the Flickr zoo pool to slideshow, and taking in a deep breath before the semestral paces descend on our lives. D. and Ph. will be home late each afternoon from the camp they're working.  I'd blog more, but Is. is only good for about three hours of Baby Signs DVDs each morning.  And who can blame her? Of course, with her burgeoning signcabulary, she can pretty well tell me what she wants (mixed in, the occasional plea for "Ma!").  Maybe a stroll to Bruegger's for a wheat bagel snack this afternoon. (This webcam snapshot shows just how much fun (viz., sheer delight) we are having while taking in all 16,905 images in the zoo slideshow.)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ulmer, Teletheory

Ulmer, Gregory. Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video. New York: Routledge, 1989.

Teletheory, both as book and as pedagogy, is jam-packed with provocative bits on mystory, experimentation, videocy, learning, and teaching--a "program of renewal" intervening into a "new discursive and conceptual ecology" (vii). I will resort to just a couple of ideas, even though there are several to sample from: relay as an alternative to (monumental) models and patterning, where patterning is the frame from which analytico-referential emerged. Writes Ulmer, "Once it emerged, analytico-referential discourse opposed that which it could not accommodate [viz., patterning]" (24). In step with Timothy Reiss, he goes on to note that "Patterning became distanced as 'pre-scientific,' but persisted on the margins, and constitutes 'a kind of permanent ghost in the machine, posing a latent question to the signifying, denoting intentions of that discourse,' contradicting 'the logic of dominant discourse in which it lies more or less hidden' (378). 'That is not to say,' Reiss adds, 'that a discourse of patterning could ever function again as such for us.' The 'as such' is the crucial qualification, however, for I want to argue that patterning has come around again, as the ghost whose secret is buried in the crypt, as the pleasure of orality. The crucial new element in the mix is electronic technology" (25). Yes, electronic technology. With this, what Ulmer addresses, citing Eric Leed, as the "explanatory myth" of orality v. literacy is put under a spotlight--exposed.

  • emotion in method: "an emotional guide to the location of significance"; predominant emotion is nostalgia (11a)
  • Allegory: "saying something more and other than they mean literally" (15)
  • Periodic table of methods and instability (pun, absurdism) in methods numbered higher than 92 (Uranium) (19)
  • Empirical vs. contingent registers for method (32); Possible to oscillate between them?
  • Learning: the "production of an institutionally preferred response" (33), citing Brannigan (33c)
  • Survivability of representations and meta-representations (36). Meta-representations "allow humans to process information which they do not understand" (36)
  • Oralysis: literate orality. (33)

William Safire's 9/20/1987 column "Hermen Eutic's Original Intent" is credited here with putting Ulmer onto (h)euretics/invention. Safire places euretics and invention on one side opposite hermeneutics and interpretation, but Ulmer mends this break, "There is no need to be against hermeneutics in order to be for euretics, only that euretics provides an alternative to interpretation that has been lacking in most of the discussions of the problem" (15-16).

As indexed:
relay 166-175
models, 104, 119, 141; cognitive, 24; disciplinary, 39; explanatory, 33, 39; folk, 39; and places, 157; and relay, 170; and signature, 165.

On models:

"In the case of [A Lover's Discourse] Fragments we are not offered any particular lover's story, but all such stories with one instance embedded within it as a model, in a way that reorganizes the traditional opposition between the particular and the general" (119). Again, the model as intermediary, as Pemberton's "partial isomorph", and as relay in its conduciveness to tweening the particular and the general, data and theories across different orders of magnitude--albeit discursive and textual rather than visual, presentational/nondiscursive, and electrate.

"What the tree diagram was to the book, the rhizome map is to electronics--a model for a new order of memory, whose principles include 'connection' ('any point on a rhizome can be connected with any other, and must be'); 'Heterogeneity' ('the semiotic chain is like a tuber gather up very diverse acts--linguistic, but also perceptual, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive'); 'multiplicity' (it has neither subject nor object: 'there are no points or positions in a rhizome, as one finds in a structure, tree or root. There are only lines'); 'a-signifying rupture' ('A rhizome can be cracked and broken at any point; it starts off again following one or another of its lines...There is neither imitation nor resemblance, but an explosion of two heterogeneous series in a line of flight consisting of a common rhizome that can no longer be attributed nor made subject to any signifier at all') (11,20)" (141). Deluze and Guattarian emphasis here; model as conceptual framework--an altered conceptual framework from book to electronics.

"The task of Teletheory in particular is to outline a direction for this project--for the invention of a new cognitive model" (24).

"The problem is that nomadic texts such as those authored by Artaud or Kleist themselves end up becoming monuments, "inspiring a model to be copied." This alternative--the relay, organized by speed, rather than the gravity of a monument--will be one of the most difficult and important issues for teletheory: how to bring the particular or singular into relation with the general or global [or the abstract] in the manner of the relay rather than the model.... Mystory itself is more a relay than a model, produced not for its own sake but for the trace of convergence of living and artificial memories" (170).

~ ~

"Hasn't pedagogy always positioned itself in this 'postmodern' way in relation to the past as information? Haven't teachers always ransacked the past in order to perform the simulacrum of history, in period courses for which there is no original, whose authorship we deny? Haven't we always lived by quotation in our scholarship and lectures? Postmodernism no longer produces monumental works, Jameson notes, 'but ceaselessly reshuffles the fragments of preexistent texts , the building blocks of older cultural and social production, in some new and heightened bricolage: metabooks which cannibalise other books, metatexts which collate bits of other texts' (223)." (13).

"A mystory is always specific to its composer, constituting a kind of personal periodic table of cognitive elements, representing one individual's intensive reserve" (vii).

"Now the cosmology of depth ["'essence' and 'meaning' and the unified ego"] is giving way to another one which it is part of our project to imagine" (27). A cosmology of light, of distance, or of surfaces (epitomes)? Ulmer mentions a fourth-dimension cognitive style combining "Einsteinian physics, vanguard collage, and the decentered subject" (28b).

"The ideology of method, that is, differs fundamentally from the practice of invention. Science, like cinema, is an apparatus, a machine, in which ideology plays an integral part. The same may be said for the university as an education machine" (29).

Phrases: patterning (25), counterinductive (30), bliss-sense (vii), Sekula on photo-archive (14), sampling (13)

Assorted Preparations

Making preparations for the fall, I have posted the syllabus and in-progress schedule for the course I will start teaching later this month. Most of what is posted comes from the shared syllabus for new TAs. I decided to use the shared syllabus because it connects with a lot of the extracurricular programming throughout the fall, it synchs up in explicit ways (demanding very little justification) with the program's goals for this particular course, and it will mean for me just the second time in seven semesters (since Fall '04) that I don't have to prep a course I haven't taught once before (the two WRT205s I taught two years apart were very different).

Yesterday I fused two accounts into one. I set up dnmexams last summer so that I would have a dedicated space for tagging and exploring linkages among my notes entries related to qualifying exams. At a much slower pace, I have continued to post notes to the Dissarray blog (formerly "Exam Sitting"), but the separate account no longer made sense. Reading for exams was relatively contained; reading and notes for the diss--at this stage--feel somewhat more sprawling and dispersed. Plus, it's more convenient to keep just one account and, with it, just one login. I've also switched from subscribing to individual accounts to subscribing to one feed for my entire network. With this switch there has been a marked improvement in the steady flow of materials into the aggregator over the past few weeks.

Finally, in anticipation of a narrow job search in the year ahead, I have been mulling over my web site at the behest of our job seekers group. I'm fairly satisfied with the site and all that it includes, but I would be tremendously appreciative of thoughts anyone is willing to share--recommendations, critical asides, feedback about design, presentation, navigability, and so on. At the next job seekers meeting we will be taking a look at teaching philosophy statements, but I won't be able to attend, so I'd love to hear your reactions to what I say there, too (either in the comments or via email).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Transparency for Library Recalls

Another one of the books I have out from the library was recalled the other day. It's due to be returned tomorrow. I've been holding onto it until the last possible moment because I wanted to eek out what notes I could about the one chapter that interested me (whether any of it finds a place in the diss is of many undecideds). The library has recalled maybe six or eight books from me in the three years I've been at Syracuse. Often the book has been on my shelf for longer than its initial check-out period. Our libraries at SU make it very easy to renew online: bad for patrons who are put off by the "checked out" designation; good for my temporary collections.

With the most recent recall, it occurred to me that there might be certain advantages in a system that allowed the possessor and the requestor to see information about each other--something like a localized LibraryThing where borrowing patterns and common materials associate people at a given institution (or regional cluster of institutions). I mean that the recall request would disclose information about the person requesting the book and vice versa. There could be problems with this, also, such as when the possessor fails to return the book by the new deadline. I can imagine a disgruntled requestor parked outside my office door, fuming. Likewise, I can imagine scenarios where rank might play a role (even though, of course, it should not), such as when a sophomore makes a request for materials crucial to a tight-to-deadline research project by someone up the hierarchy.

Problems notwithstanding, transparency would make it possible for the possessor and requestor to have a conversation. Most of us wouldn't have time for this sort of thing every time materials are recalled, but why not make it an option, even for casual insights and also a different sense of connections across an institution? After all, books--even though they are things--participate in and even proliferate networks. Such a system (opt-in, of course) might stimulate cross-campus (even cross-institutional) conversations and serendipitous exchanges about reading and research that would not happen otherwise. I raise this not knowing anything about the requestor of The Organization of Knowledge in Modern America, 1860-1920 or their motivations. Arbitrary (does anyone have a copy of...?) requests for materials to our program listserv would suggest that borrowers are likely to be our close colleagues. This is interesting and surprising--grounds for fruitful encounters. But equally interesting to me are those potential encounters beyond the usual circles in which we walk, read.

Whether there's anything to all of this, the recall did touch off an incentive for me to get some notes down on Veysey's chapter, notes which include these two striking excerpts:

"Those who reject the dominant scientific conception of the pursuit of knowledge can only wander off in a score of mutually unrelated directions. It is easy to see these as amounting to no more than a mixed bag of random leftovers. In particular, when such fields as history, English, foreign languages, and the history of art and music rejected science and yet invoked the past, there was the grave danger that they would run around in a spirit of sheer antiquarianism--calling attention to anything merely because it existed, with no self-conscious principle of selection, no concept of the logical relationship between evidence and larger hypothetical generalizations. Of course none of this matters if one stops dreaming of intellectual unification and rests content with the celebration of particular achievements in art, music, poetry, literary criticism, or philosophy. But these symptoms of confusion, drift, and retreatism deserve emphasis in dealing with a rubric that to outsiders appears far more coherent than it is" (57).

"The most important boundary may well be not the formalistic one between so-called amateurs and professionals but the line that divides those who William James called the once- and twice-born, between those persons of all backgrounds who have become converted to a profoundly sustaining intellectual allegiance of this kind and those others (possibly laboring alongside them in the same academic departments) who have not" (61).

Veysey, "The Plural Organized Worlds of the Humanities"

Veysey, Laurence. "The Plural Organized Worlds of the Humanities." The Organization of Knowledge in Modern America, 1860-1920. Alexandra Oleson and John Voss, eds. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1979.

Daly-Goggin refers to this chapter and Veysey's book-length work, The Emergence of the American University (Chicago, 1965) in her discussion of patterned isolation. Here, Veysey examines the humanities during the period of 1865-1920. The historical focus isn't especially relevant for my work, and I can't find specific references to "patterened isolation" (which does appear explicitly in Emergence). Veysey's discussion of professionalization (pp. 57-72) presents a few useful pieces for returning to, maybe. The chapter itself presents three perspectives on the humanities to characterize the 55 year era:

  1. Burgeoning variety: the humanities as a continuation of the genteel tradition, which gave way to the fading of generalists around 1890 and the beginnings of advanced research, professionalization, and specialization. pp. 52-57.
  2. Professionalization: National organizations, learned societies and groups, and a devil may care attitude toward disciplinary interrelatedness (Veysey says the social sciences had a much more pronounced interrelatedness). pp. 57-72.
  3. Homogenous social context: Four kinds of groups: educational (school-related), custodial (keepers of special collections), voluntary associations (clubs, etc.), and media (publishers, performance agencies, etc.). pp. 72-85.

The final two sections of the essay are concerned with a review of the forces at work (85-89) and an assessment of the "basic intellectual achievement of the era" (89-92). Veysey suggests that the era can be reduced to 50 or 60 names (92), and he proposes that a comparable survey should be considered for the period running from 1920-1970. This move to name-counting indicates that the contributions were individual and typically measured as such. He refers briefly to movements--constrasting low-brow (counter-culture, avante-garde, and revolutionary) and high-brow (old world high culture) movements, but his final judgment is a count of notable, named contributors and their exemplars--Santayana for those outside the academy and C. S. Peirce for those affiliated with the academy.

"On the plane of thought, they claimed to represent the heritage of higher 'civilization.' Thus, in a time of rapid academic transformation marked by strongly progressive assumptions, the humanities stood for an important degree of continuity. While participating to some extent in the pervasive onward and upward mood, their spokesmen insisted that an acquaintance with the literary and artistic remains of the long-term past still ought to furnish the hallmark of the truly educated man or woman" (52). 1865-1920: An inertial humanities concerned with remnants.

"To the generalists, research meant submergence in arcane dry-as-dust materials located within subfields they could scarcely comprehend, along with the acceptance of a dubious and pretentious scientific posture. The Ph.D. and the entire Germanic style of graduate training threatened liberal education. Did it threaten the existence of the cultivated social elite as well?" (54)

"Those who reject the dominant scientific conception of the pursuit of knowledge can only wander off in a score of mutually unrelated directions. It is easy to see these as amounting to no more than a mixed bag of random leftovers. In particular, when such fields as history, English, foreign languages, and the history of art and music rejected science and yet invoked the past, there was the grave danger that they would run around in a spirit of sheer antiquarianism--calling attention to anything merely because it existed, with no self-conscious principle of selection, no concept of the logical relationship between evidence and larger hypothetical generalizations. Of course none of this matters if one stops dreaming of intellectual unification and rests content with the celebration of particular achievements in art, music, poetry, literary criticism, or philosophy. But these symptoms of confusion, drift, and retreatism deserve emphasis in dealing with a rubric that to outsiders appears far more coherent than it is" (57).

"The most important boundary may well be not the formalistic one between so-called amateurs and professionals but the line that divides those who William James called the once- and twice-born, between those persons of all backgrounds who have become converted to a profoundly sustaining intellectual allegiance of this kind and those others (possibly laboring alongside them in the same academic departments) who have not" (61). Could this be switched into a networks vocabulary re: homophily bias, boundary spanners, and centrality?

Terms: unguided drift [that characterizes the humanities] (56), specialization (59), managerialism (60), "intensification of elitism" (63), centrifugal forces (68), quasi-aristocratic clubbishness (68), MLA cliquishness (74).

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Langer, Philosophical Sketches

Langer, Susanne K. Philosophical Sketches. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1962.

Quotations and crumbs:

"On a New Definition of 'Symbol'" , pp. 54-65
On the different kinds of symbol use:
"The definition [of symbol] establishes but also restricts it; and it may happen that the most adequate and economical definition we can make in a fairly precise context, such as the context of logical discourse in which 'symbol' has been defined, is incapable of yielding any derivative concepts that might serve other interests. It allows of no generalization, no wider sense. Therefore it cannot be extended to any very different frames of reference" (58). Langer prods at the epistemology that would have symbolic logic accord with a stabilizing mathesis (viz. strict reference) that prohibits connotation--"derivative concepts" and a "wider sense"...wider sense like the "momentary configurations" and open spaces constructed out of connections (i.e., conceptual neighbors) Rice discusses as a network phenomenon, although Langer comes before the technological apparatuses and digital logics we are immersed in today (she, like Berthoff, is wary of technology...they promote something more like a naturalist's abstraction because the positivistic epistemology of symbolic logic is on the side of science, is on the side, therefore, of technology, problematic though this is).

Symbol: "any device whereby we are enabled to make an abstraction" (63).

"This formulative function is common to all symbols, though in some it is very elementary. Any sign--for instance, the little noise that a word physically is--by being conventionally assigned to any object, event, quality, relation, or what not that it is to signify, bestows a conceptual identity on that designated item. Symbolization gives it form" (62). There is quite an expanse to cross in correlating this to stance on symbolization as forming to the production of distant readings in the form of abstract visual models. Here Langer is not talking about models but symbols and their relations, where links approximate meanings (and where there are limitless linkages in the realm of connotation). This redefinition of symbol, symbolic logic, and, as a consequence, symbol systems, echoes Richards on anchorage and relay; it repositions symbols in the sphere of rhetoric, performance, and imagination (as conceptual associations and relationships) as "discursive thought" and casts aside many of the wrongheaded presumptions about "scientific symbolization" (65). This is an extension and a reiteration of Philosophy in a New Key (1951) and Feeling and Form (1953).

"Emotion and Abstraction", pp. 66-82
Langer presents a reunion of the emotive and the abstractive, sorting out the intrinsic tie between thought, feeling, perception and explicit abstraction, where the "play of felt processes" and the "play of impressions" blend as "associational activity" (80).

On explosives, imagination, and the naturalness of abstraction: "We have various devices, accidentally discovered or deliberately designed for making very rarefied and strained abstractions, which empower us to construct our admirable mathematics and rather terrifying science" (69).

"In the case of abstract conception, the role of sensory specialization organs has long been recognized , since it resembles that of the selection or 'taking out' of features from the welter of experience, which abstraction is supposed to be" (71). What follows anticipates post-humanism--the computational organ that performs the "taking out." Next (73), Langer goes into the brain science research of the early 60's.

"The Growing Center of Knowledge", 143-182
This sketch begins with the growth and proliferation of knowledge--its accumulation and divergence. Ref. the central nervous system, which does not grow, but stretches as a body grows.

"Imagination is probably the greatest force acting on our feelings--greater and steadier than outside influences like fear-inspiring noises and sights (lightning and thunder, an oncoming truck, a raging tiger) or direct sense pleasure, even including the intense pleasures of sexual excitement. Only a small part of reality, for a human being, is what is actually going on; the greater part is what he imagines in connection with sights and sounds of the moment" (146). More on imagination, 146-147.

"What we do see, however, is that the most various things repeat a few fundamental forms, by virtue of which we can use familiar events as models to understand new ones and tangible objects as symbols of intangible realities. This helps a person in two ways to cope with his world: in the first place, by making great and remote parts or aspects of it conceivable, and secondly, by giving its homely, trivial contents a symbolic value. When ordinary acts like eating and sleeping, and common things like fire and trees and water, become symbols for the round of nature, human passion, and what not, they cease to be silly and separate items of experience, and take on significance as integral factors to the human scene" (155). Read this as the "homely, trivial contents" of disciplinarity become significant when modeled. More on 155.

"The power of seeing one thing in another, which begets our metaphors and conceptual models (the oldest of which are myths of nature and human life), leads also to a characteristically human thought process known as abstraction. By logical intuition we see not only what is 'the same' in two widely different things, as for instance a burning candle consumed by its flame and a living body consumed by its life, but also what makes them different" (157). The flame-body example seems hokey, but the function of models as abstractions supporting correlation or touching off correspondences and resemblances matches well with Pemberton's discussion of models as "partial isomorphs."

"This is the constructive work of philosophy. It is by far the greater part of that discipline; analysis shapes the problem and serves as a constant check, but logical construction is its real life. It requires imagination, skill in manipulating formal definitions, and above all a certain boldness and freedom of mind to depart from traditional ways of thinking and talking, dispense with the old and misleading models, and even dismiss the promptings of common sense with lordly unconcern in the interest of abstract conceivability" (164-165).

Phrases: key words (152), image (153), metaphorical meanings (153), models (155)


I have been slow to pick up on the personality and intelligences quizzes posted by so many others on my blogroll, slow because I've been studying intensively before sitting down to take each quiz.

The results are positive.  As far as I can tell, I actually have a personality (despite rumors to the contrary) and my intelligence is not singular but rather plural. Further, I have shifted from the ENFP profile I scored half-a-lifetime ago in high school, to INFJ.  This change could indicate that 1.) I no longer go to parties or think of myself as having many close friends (also I am too embarrassed to participate in NFL Pick'em because I honestly think the Lions are going to win most weeks) and 2.) I am less relaxed (spontaneous, aloof, etc.) than I once was. 

Click to view my Personality Profile page

You might be impressed to learn that I have this personality type (for a limited time only?) in common with Oprah, Mother Teresa, and several more.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Construction Site of Legends

Nottingham Field

They're putting the finishing touches on a new outdoor athletic facility at Ph.'s high school, the oldest high school in Syracuse city. Right, just in time for his junior year, so the timing turned out to be pretty good for him. They're calling the complex "Field of Legends," which, considering it's never been tread upon means one of two things. Either the "Legends" part will be asserted when alums are basking in nostalgia over the feats accomplished on the old field (the worn pitch called "Old Rutty"?) or the "Legends" part will be determined by those who have yet to set foot on the field, like Ph. and his cohort. Or both. So it could mean three things.

What you should know: play will commence on the new turf field on Friday, September 7, for football, and on Saturday, September 8, for girls and boys soccer--all against the nearby prep school rival, Christian Brothers Academy. Doubtful I will be on hand for all of the fanfare, but you'll be sure to find me at the field for the boys soccer home opener vs. CBA under the lights on the 8th.

Friday September 7, 2007
Opening Ceremony-12:45 PM
Football Alumni/VIP Reception Tent-5:00 PM
Military Color Guard/Recognition of Former Football Championship Teams/Coin Toss-6:45 PM
Varsity Football Game vs CBA-7:05 PM

Saturday September 8, 2007
Tailgate Kick-off
Recognition of Alumni Teams
3:00 PM Alumni Soccer Game
5:00 PM Varsity Girls Soccer Game vs CBA
7:00 PM Varsity Boys Soccer Game vs CBA

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bottom Five

In the spirit of the IMDB Bottom 100, here is the IMDM Bottom 5--the worst movies I've ever watched, beginning to end.  One challenge in generating such a list is that the bottom dwellers are absolutely forgettable (and I'm not especially snappy with movie recall when it comes to titles, producers, who acted in it, and so on).  I've only watched one movie* on the IMDB Bottom 100, so it makes sense to include it in my list, a list accounting for ten or more hours that sadly will never be recovered.  Starting with the worst of the worst:

1 (tie). Hope Floats (1998). Divorcee awkwardly re-connects with Texas townies. Other stuff that floats: bloated fish carcasses, rotting seaweed....
1 (tie). The Holiday (2006). Main characters swap houses for Christmas break (one looking for love, the other to avoid it). Character development eliminated in the interest of meeting a pre-holiday release deadline.
3. Look Who's Talking (1989). Babies interacting and observing their worlds with dubbed adult voices. Dialogue isn't strange enough to be funny or entertaining in the least.
4. Teen Wolf Too (1987). Socially awkward teen is also a wolf.  I don't remember seeing this, but I'm sure I did. *This one also appears on the IMDB list.
5. Big Daddy (1999). Adoption gimmick designed to renew girlfriend's interest.

Watching The Holiday this past week inspired this little exercise. I'm sure there are several other craptacular movies that I started but did not finish watching. Produce your own list, if, like me, you think it a public service to deter others from making the same mistakes you have.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Where From Here?: Drafts and Responses

I'm home from another bi-weekly meeting of my program's job-seekers and dissertators. The second portion--a meeting of dissertators--focused on my first twenty-pages, a chunk from the start of the second chapter where I try to make a quick-light-profound path through the fiercely guarded junkyard of abstraction, speculative instruments, Science v. Art, and so on and so on, writing through concepts and leveling out some of the rutty groundwork. Of course, part of the point is that it's not junk in the junkyard.

One of the more challenging dimensions of a session like this is the degree to which a chapter or a section from a chapter must account for all of the terms it invokes. In an article, by contrast, we would expect everything to be set up, plainly laid out (right, or else not). But much of what I do at the outset of the second chapter takes the unwritten first chapter for granted. This is a matter of given and new: how do we locate the given and new in a dissertation? Will chapter one definitions, arguments, and discussions constitute givens in chapters two through six? Or must they be re-capped, re-introduced? If they are re-introduced, does the dissertation then come to function more like a collection of articles and chapters that can stand alone (because we desire for some of them to be ready for the transformation into an article)? I know the simplest answers to these must include caveats, but I'm only trying to capture a few of the things I thought about on the bike road home from campus.

My next small step will be to draft another ten pages on visual models (ch. 2, section 2), locating the rise of particular models in composition studies before dealing with a couple of perspectives that contribute conceptually to a rhetorical understanding of models. After that, maybe I'll get going on chapter one and/or rework some of the section that was generously and thoughtfully taken up this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Walking the Walk

Today's birthday girl tip-toed through a few steps yesterday afternoon.

Flower and Hayes, "Uncovering Cognitive Processes in Writing: An Introduction to Protocol Analysis"

Hayes, John R., and Linda S. Flower. "Uncovering Cognitive Processes in Writing: An Introduction to Protocol Analysis." Research On Writing: Principles and Methods. Peter Mosenthal, Lynne Tamor, and Sean A. Walmsley, eds. New York: Longman, 1983. 207-220.

Leading off the "Observational Approaches" section in the Mosenthal collection, Flower and Hayes deliver a case for protocol analysis as it provides a scope on the thought processes that "is wider than most of the other windows available" (219). Protocol methods only interest me where they promote debates about writing as rule-governed rather than aleatory (or something a degree away from this, where agreements and rules are very loose--exerting the slightest imprint on the activity). So why work with this chapter? It includes yet another iteration of the visual model related to Flower and Hayes' cognitive process writing model. As in much of their work, writing is acknowledged as a complex phenomenon, and its intrinsic complexity justifies the protocol analysis--a method that allows a researcher to study writers "while they are performing it" (214). Here, the visual model doesn't get much, if any, explicit discussion. It's the silent transplant--a figure summoned from 1980, where it appeared in Lee and Erwin's edited collection, Cognitive Processes in Writing.

Johanna Drucker writes of visual forms of knowledge that "[t]hey can work 1) through offering a visual analogy or morphological resemblance, 2) through providing a visual image of non-visible phenomenoa, or 3) by providing visual conventions to structure operations and procedures" ("Graphesis" 3). Which of these does the cognitive process model match with? A case could be made for any of the three. It provides a visual analogy. It provides a visual image of a non-obvious phenomena. It provides visual conventions. Most often, it seems to be deployed for purposes matched with the third function of visual forms of knowledge: providing visual conventions to structure operations and procedures. This is what is meant when they write elsewhere of the model's organizing function. Yet this is tricky because their references to model often do not distinguish the discursive model as a conceptual framework from the visual forms--the visual model itself.

Much of this article follows the organizational presentation of the visual model. Writing, they argue, consists of distinct processes which are identified here as a task environment, the writer's long-term memory, and the writing process itself, which "is best described not as a sequence of stages but as a set of distinguishable processes that the writer must orchestrate in the act of writing" (208). [Imagine if they were indistinguishable. How would it be possible to name what is happening, other than with the gesture of a shrug?]. Further, they explain that the processes are "highly embedded" and that writing is "goal directed." Each of these, of course, must be asterisked with a *not always.

Why is this a good example of inert(ial) visual models in composition studies? 1) The model has not evolved. It is the same diagram that appeared in 1980 (later examples repeat and, thus, reinforce this stability/stagnancy). 2) The model is not discussed directly as a visual form of knowledge. It is given, self-evident (Drucker and Latour are excellent for asking us to think through the rhetoricity of the visual model, for Drucker as an aesthetic dramatism that performs in step with scientism, for Latour as a figure which mobilizes). Could the chapter proceed without it? Yes. 3) Its design is at odds with the dynamism (i.e., complexity, orchestration, embeddedness, etc.). It is, in this sense, positioned as in innocent mediator between the data produced by the method and the theory that generalizes the method to meaningful insights into the cognitive processes of (some) writers.

Cognitive Process Model, p. 208 (from 1981)

Phrases: process-tracing (211), thinking-aloud protocols (217), retrospection (217), retrospective reporting (217).