Saturday, November 05, 2011

Shifting Directions

I've used this blog mostly as a place to post reading notes as I teach graduate courses, and I am reconsidering directions for it since I am not teaching a graduate course right now and will be on leave next year. So new directions--will this become a blog to support the reading I will be doing for my book project on agrarian rhetorics? Likely that is the direction I will go. More to come as I revamp and get going again.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

21st century composing

Tech Camp #2 response

Kathleen Yancey argues in "Writing in the 21st Century: A Report from NCTE" that the three challenges we face for 21st century composition/literacy are:

"Developing new model of composing, Designing a new curriculum supporting these models, ad creating new pedagogies enacting that curriculum" (8).

I think this report is a very good assessment of the challenges we face with 21st century composition. I sent this report out a few years ago when it first came out to the program listserv hoping we could spark some conversation about it. So it's good to have the opportunity to blog about this and see us engage the piece (again) in Tech Camp.

This piece was actually one an inspiration point for me to start up Tech Camp. I feel and still feel our models of composing in the program are engaging some aspects of the elements Yancey describes, but not all and not nearly enough. I think we can do more (and I can as well) to harness the power of self-sponsored writing that is so prevalent with social media. Where I think we have made quite a bit of progress in the program is around work with visuals and images. We have a number of assignments, readings, textbooks, and resources that engage the notion of visual rhetoric. But I sometimes wonder if we are doing enough to address students as "producers" of images as opposed to "consumers." It's a classic cultural studies move to analyze visual texts--how do we move beyond that to image production and construction and understanding what images do and can be.

Also, how can we harness the networked nature of so much of that writing and the understanding of audience. Yancey discusses the role of public writing (6, citing Hesse), and I am very interested in that, especially with respect to our WRT 205 course. How can we produce researched writing for various publics that want it and need it? In my 255 course that I mentioned in my previous posting, I think that I made some strides toward students addressing various publics.

Finally, the work on video is a reminder of ways production-oriented composition can take place across media. I like the idea of "writing with" that Lovett et al describe on p. 3. The course that George took on this past spring "Writing with Video" is based on this course model. I hope we'll have a chance to discuss how that course worked and what some of the products are.

More later....

Engaging Technologies

OK, it's always good to have homework. I messed up and didn't do assignment #1 for Tech Camp, so I'm backtracking and combining both blogging assignments into one posting.

This was day one's prompt: "Reflect on your experience using media and technologies—images, audio, film, social media, hypertext, projectors, etc.—in your teaching. How does the Wysocki piece support, develop, or challenge what you already believe about writing and the teaching of writing?"

I've been pretty open to engaging technology in my teaching--blogging with graduate students in grad seminars since 2006 and some undergraduates in indp studies, for instance. I started blogging with students in CCR 601 in 2006. I've blogged in two additional grad seminars. I think that this has worked out somewhat well--students post their research notes and responses, respond to each other, and prime the pump for class discussion. Most students keep their blogs going beyond the class or had them before, in some cases.

So my life as a blogger has been pretty course-based. I have had periods of time when I've blogged on my own, especially about food and farming issues that I am tracking in the media. I've used my own blogging to get discussion going in undergrad classes of these issues. Some of my undergrads have read my blog posts on farming and food and send me their blogs as well.

As a teacher, I'm often using documentary, you-tube clips, and other media. I've had students do quite a bit with image work over the years--using images to design arguments about places and spaces, for instance. I had a 105 place-based assignment that had students analyze and represent a place in Syracuse (as part of the geographies of exclusion assignment). Students did a lot with google images and some with Flickr.

In my WRT 255 course (Fall 2008), II had students design an advocacy campaign as part of their final project. Some made videos, some designed brochures or websites, some hooked their videos to social media campaigns on Facebook. The work was really interesting. I'm sure Tech Camp was a huge influence in me going in this direction--also seeing Gail Hawisher speak about using video as a mode of writing.

Wysocki's article is helpful in thinking how I frame my work. I am interested in her argument about materiality and new media, in particular, and the idea that we can make student more conscious of the materiality of technologies, objects, and artifacts. I like the way she invites teachers of writing to the table and shows us what we can bring as well as what we will have to be open to learning. I connected a great deal to her point (p. 23) that we have to be open to the new type of work that is produced. This new work challenges us to rethink and push our criteria for assessing writing and our notions of what writing is and does.

My plan for my WRT 105 this fall is to go a lot farther than I have in the past with engaging social media, image work, and some work with video.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blogging Tech Camp 2010

We're at Tech Camp 2010 at Syracuse University! Welcome back to blogging for me for this week at least.

I'll try to capture some slices of life from Tech Camp.

This morning (Tuesday) we're talking about Anne Wysocki's piece "Opening New Media to Writing" from the book _Writing New Media_ and also about the idea of digital ecologies.

One of the main points we are discussing is the way Wysocki links new media to materiality and material culture. We also noted how she doesn't just link new media to digitality.

Other topics:

How do we value and understand the new work produced and practice the "generous approaches to new texts" that she calls for on p. 23.

How do students and teachers "remediate" the new technology with the old?

Feenberg on system-congruent design and expressive design (21).

Discussion of how we design digital ecologies.

Discussion of Web 2.0. Identified by interactivity and interconnectivity. George: "The thing becomes your participation."

Twitter and Tweeting--we all have twitter accounts now. How can twitter be a way to engage students in writing and research? A way to encourage learning, sharing of information, and participation? We started to work on ideas for how to incorporate twitter into our classes.

more to come! Good to be back blogging.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Digital Ethical Dilemmas

Gesa Kirsch's _Ethical Dilemmas in Feminist Research_ brought us the term "ethical dilemmas" earlier in the semester. Those moments/challenges researchers face where they are faced with a knotty problem of "what to do" in a situation involving a participant and questions of representation, participation, and ethics.

Some of the ethical dilemmas and/or challenges to method we are seeing in this week's readings;

--how to deal with the fact that virtual communities (if they are open) can be studied without the participants even knowing there is a researcher present or that the researcher is deploying "publicly" available information. The big question here is what is private and what is public. As this collection points out, many online writers see themselves as writing to a private audience or partially private audience when the work they produce is fully and publicly available.

--This raises the question of how to participate in a community in which you are a researcher? And what do you do when you are already a participant and decide to study a community? Do you announce your new status? How do you negotiate the interpersonal relations and questions of trust and proximity that such a move makes?

--How to involve participants in the study--there are a number of strategies mentioned in the article by DePew on triangulating data. DePew wants us to consider how we might move beyond textual analysis and complicate our understandings through interviews and other kinds of actions. Scott Dewitt had participants give him virtual tours of their websites as a way of seeing how they interpreted their web work and also a way to include them in the process of interpreting their texts.

--That online communities are not necessarily face-to-face (although they can be) in the way that other communities are changes the relationship. So there can be an element of play and mythification in the circulation of representations online. So how to sort through and interpret that is a dilemma. That is where the triangulation that DePew calls for can come in as a way to understand what might be going on. But this raises questions as well about intentionality, and DePew gets into that as well as a problem.

--The other piece of this is what one can find out online about particular individuals or groups. Sidler discusses the role of the online researcher studying scientific communities as that of the "scavenger." As she points out, the "scavenger" is looking at multiple sources and sometimes discovers in the online meeting rooms or spaces that she is confronted with "too much information" (77). What do we do with that information? How does knowing "too much" affect the way we address the other information we are privy to in our research.

--"Digital artifacts pose interesting coding-related issues b/c they are less stable than print artifacts, alter relations between creator and audience, and can incorporate multiple media" (Blythe 203). This happens all the time for many of us who teach. A student consults a web-based resource. He/she goes back later to work with it again, and it is gone. Sure, there are online archives, but this is essentially a set of materials that have been pulled from "view." So what to do about that? If it's an archive where there has been no permission, what should the researcher do?

These are samples of the kinds of dilemmas posed by the authors in _Digital Writing Research_ that I hope we can work with some today. I wonder, too, how we address such dilemmas in our own research, but also as we teach students to engage in digital research as well.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Going digital

It's that time of the semester when I find myself doing things like starting a facebook group for people who want to run or walk 100 miles in 30 days. OK, so I'm in a manic phase right now. It happens every year! The most "wonderful time of the year" is also the most challenging time of the year for all of us who are academics with project deadlines and grading to do, etc. My response is to take the excess energy generated and run and (walk) 100 miles. So.....

This week's readings in 691 are really useful. I'm glad we are ending our spate of reading for 91 with the collection _Digital Writing Research_. I think the framing of this project by McKee and DeVoss is really important. Their introduction is extremely useful, and I found Porter's preface helpful as well. I like that Porter does not let readers off the hook--he demands that the digital be given its due inside the field and outside as well. I will do some hopping and skipping around to try to touch on some key points.

I also want to point out that as we search for an Asst Professor in composition that Porter's preface to the book reminded me of all that the terms and expectations that composition carries with it and also how that is shifting:

"The term 'composition' signifies our particular interest in composing processes and also our affiliation with composition studies; it identifies what has long been a primary research locale for the field--the first-year college composition course. But the shift to he word 'writing' (which has been happening for some time now) reflects more accurately what our field has actually been doing: examining writing practices across numerous academic, public, and professional spaces, not just college classrooms. The ambiguity of the term 'writing' is also an advantage: it could refer to the text itself, or tot he process of creating the text" (xviii).

He goes on to point out that writing is an "action." We write to" do something." So the field's research explores all of these dimensions. Then he goes on to discuss the shift that "digital" brings, a "dramatic shift from the analog and print world to a new kind of writing space altogether" (xviii).

What is included in the digital:
"computer mediated technology" but also "technology--as cultural space" and as "technology-as production-space" (xviii). Porter wants readers to think beyond technology as a "tool," which is the language that is deployed far too often when describing digital work.

McKee and DeVoss in their introduction lay out a definition of digital writing research that demonstrates the array of spaces and actions that are being referred to:
1) "computer-generated, computer-based, and/or computer-delivered documents;
2) computer-based text production practices" (text is referred to broadly and includes a variety of artifacts;
3) "the interactions of people using digital technologies (communities and spaces)" (3).

These venues incite us to think through the methodological challenges and ethical dilemmas (Kirsch) that we might face Their list of eight bulleted sets of questions on p. 4 are particularly insightful. I find myself trying to answer each question in light of the rest of the book.

I'll have more to say, but this is a start for now to get me into the swim of laying out some of the conceptual shifts and methodological challenges this book is posing.

What strikes me as I reread the essays for this week is how much our field has made some of these questions invisible as well as visible. What have we taken for granted as we "move around" in digital spaces and yet don't always account for those spaces as spaces?

We've spent a lot of time talking about communities and concerns about research ethics? But how do digital communities pose similar and different challenges?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spinning with Spinuzzi

One question I wanted to raise today is not only the question of researching networks in our field, but researching organizations and also how to situate Spinuzzi's work not only in ANT and AT, but also in the field of professional and technical communication. What questions are considered, and how do those questions compare/connect to questions asked in rhetorical studies and composition studies? I think one interesting challenge to consider today for discussion is simply trying to define as well as work through the vocabulary of ANT and AT--Spinuzzi is shot through with a all kinds of terms and definition work. So not only do we have his definitions of them, but his application of them as he studies Telecorps. I found this an interesting study for consideration of how one applies complex dense theory work to ethnographic/qualitative work and also historical work (his chapter on the history of the telecommunications industry). That's a combination that you don't always see in our field.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ANT, AT, and Dead Dogs

Rereading Spinuzzi was a reminder and remix for me of some of the work I studied when I took at a tech comm course at Milwaukee. I feel like I've been learning a lot about Actor-Network theory and Activity Theory already from reading Justin's blog notes, but it was good to revisit Spinuzzi and have his definitions.

"Activity theory is primarily a theory of distributed cognition and focuses on issues of labor, learning, and concept formation; it is used in fields such as educational, cognitive, and cultural psychology, although it is making inroads in human-computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, communication, and anthropology" (62).

"Actor-network theory is primarily an ontology-an account of existence--and focuses on issues of power in science and politics, rhetoric, production of facts, agreements, and knowledge. It's used in science and technology studies, philosophy, and sociology" (62).

Both are expanding and beginning, in Spinuzzi's words, "to grapple with" one another and "have sharp confrontations" (63). Bring it on baby! Who doesn't love a good fight. But Spinuzzi's argument is that both sides "just don't get it" and resort to "mischaracterization," which he says is a shame because both ANT and AT have a lot in common (63).

Activity theory is weaving, and ANT is splicing as noted in Ch 2. Spinuzzi goes on to discuss AT's formation in Marx/Engels/Vygotsky and dialectical materialism and ANT's location/connection in Deleuze and Guattari and Latour. It was interesting to read more about the origins of each. It's interesting as well to see how Spinuzzi unfurls these theories in sort of a spiral fashion, moving back and forth between them, drawing lines of differences and connections.

One of the repeated tropes in this study is "Rex," the dead dog, who is the result of "blackboxing" in organizational communication. Because someone down the line doesn't communicate adequately about Rex's presence in the yard, Rex ends up dead in the street, at the border of a neighbor's yard--a metaphor for what happened in this communicative situation within the network. The customer who has the problem with the telephone line told the customer service agent about Rex and warned about him going out the gate, but the phone tech, who works for a different connected branch of Telecorps and a ways down the line does not hear about Rex. He opens the gate in a customer's yard and frightens the dog who runs into the street and is killed by a car. Then the chain of addressing Rex's death begins. Where to lay blame? Where was the communicative break-down or omission in the network? Knottworking? Net work? I want to keep thinking about Rex, too, as "canary in the mine" to test out ANT vs. AT. More to come, but these are some preliminary thoughts for now!