Revolution Lullabye

February 23, 2009

Phelps, Composing Administration as a Writer

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Composing Administration as a Writer.” CCCC 1996.

The theories and practices of writing, the expertise of a composition and rhetoric scholar, can be the source for a WPA’s administrative strategies in four distinctive ways: the WPA can use her own writing to complete the intellectual and bureuacratic tasks of administration; the WPA can foster a writing community in the program; the WPA can make writing a root metaphor the work that happens in the program, transforming the program jargon and thinking; and the WPA can write scholarship about administrative practice and reflection. A WPA who uses writing in these ways is using writing in its many functions simulataneously. Those functions of writing include institutional invention, performative, framing, contact, and identity formation. Being delberate about using writing to administrate bridges the gap between author and agency, showing that administrative structures do have human faces and are, like all humans, adaptive creatures able to change.

Quotable Quotes

.”Most people mean by administration “whatever the administrator does,” but my analysis demonstrates that the functions and genres of administration are simultaneously something an individual “composes” and also a widespread, diverse set of cultural activities and structures mediated by texts and socially produced genres. Unfortunately, the ambiguity of agency and action in administration does not show up in our usage of the word. When we look at writing as a surrogate for “administration,” though, we discover that what administrators do best is to orchestrate and respond to this complex activity. Administration is all the work that gets done. Administration is the organizational structures and processes and roles—and the genres—in terms of what happens.  It is not simply what the administrator does, or autonomously composes” (12-13)

“I’m suggesting that the administrator who employs writing as a preferred tool for problem-solving and conducting daily business is likely to find herself on a slippery slope, the relationship between writing and administration sliding constantly from the instrumental use of writing as a practical tool toward the metaphoric identification of administration with writing and rhetoric. This prospect is enhanced when the administrator’s strategies and metaphoric resources for practicing administration derive not only from personal experience as an academic, technical, or creative writer and a literate person, but also from the scholarly investigation of written language.” (2)

Notable Notes

framing is managing meaning by putting one metaphor, one way to view reality, over other through metaphors, stories, spin, etc.

genres and administrative writing are multifunctional. The same document can have many purposes.

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Porter et al, Institutional Critique

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

Composition and rhetoric scholars need to begin seeing the institution itself, as a rhetorical and spatial entity, as the place where they might critique and enact change. Working with the situated institution prevents composition and rhetoric’s critiques and calls for change from being to global and idealistic or being so local (classroom-level) that it does not effect the institution as a whole. Institutions range from the university to the school, legal, and political system. Institutional critique as a methodolgy draws on postmodern mapping and critical theory, particularily investigating the rhetorical and spatial construction of institutions, the power dynamics at the boundaries, and the multiple historical and social perspectives of those in the institution. This kind of methodology begins to push the gap between research and service and might be one way of validating and rewarding the rich intellectual work that compositionists and rhetoricians do that is all but thrown away with the label of “service.” Rhetoric and composition as a field is uniquely equip to practice institutional critique.

Quotable Quotes

“Our basic claim is this: 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).

“We focus, then, on institutions as rhetorical systems of decision making that exercise power through the design of space (both material and discursive)” (621).

“Institutional critique is, fundamentally, a pragmatic effort to use rhetorical means to improve institutional systems” (625).

Notable Notes

projects like where a writing center is physically situated on campus; how and when during the publishing process a handbook is open for revision & the various stakes that go into such a production; Ellen Cushman’s work with Quarytown in The Struggle and the Tools.

advocacy – action to enact change. Can’t stop at critique. It fills in the gap between macro-level ideals and mirco-level classroom practices

equating the discipline with the institution ignores the material constraints the discipline has to work in (619)

design relationship – between rhetoric and space

David Sibley Geographies of Exclusion, postmodern geography

McBeth, Memoranda of Fragile Machinery

McBeth, Mark. “Memoranda of Fragile Machinery: A Portrait of Shaughnessy as Intellectual-Bureaucrat.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 31:1-2, 2007.

McBeth, the WPA for ten years at the City College of New York, reconstructs Shaughnessy’s role as an administrator through both the archived material of the program, containing her published and unpublished administrative documents, and interviews with teachers and administrators who worked with her at CUNY. In this recovery project, McBeth presents an alternate perspective on the work of Shaughnessy, explicitly showing how her administrative work informed her ideas about basic writing, development of writers, and literacy, and how her work in managing a large writing program gave her a place where she could conduct and gather data for her research. McBeth describes the work of WPAs positively, contesting the pessamistic attitude that WPAs are just managers over a large system marked by unfair labor practices. McBeth argues that WPAs are more than just managers: they are intellectual-bureaucrats who use their knowledge and expertise in rhetoric and their understanding of the production of writing to lead effective, educationally sound, and progressive programs.

Quotable Quotes

“The oft-tedious bureaucratic labors we will inevitably face may not deter us from the publish-or-perish work we need to complete, but on the contrary, may lead us to it. Applying our scholarly scrutiny and creativity to the administrative positions we hold may prove to make the WPA’s labors both more fruitful and possibly more rewarding (perhaps even pleasurable.)” (62).

The records “show the intersection between her academic life as a scholar, teacher, and administrator and, additionally, how those roles necessarily coexist and inform one another.” (62).

Notable Notes

shows how Errors and Expectations is more than a pedagogy manual – it is an administrative argument about how to teach basic writing students and structure a program that will meet their needs.

mid-term and end-of-term evaluations were a key resource and research pool for Errors and Expectations

Phelps, Administration as Design Art

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Administration as Design Art.”

Writing program administrators should see themselves as designers, the programs and institutions they work in as designs and sites of design, and their work as WPAs as design art. Phelps draws on the work of the New London Group, Gunther Kress, and architects Karl Weith and Stewart Brand to offer a new lens to administrative work to not just see their work as design but to also challenge them to think of their programs as always designable, never concluding in a final design. Writing programs can be sites of institutional change if they continue designing and re-desigining after their initial structure is put into place, and writing programs have the unique complex, contradictory, and improvisational place in the academy to which enact change because they are a managable size with connections, like a sprawling network, across the campus. Phelps shows how crucial it is to reach out beyond one’s own discipline to find design inspiration in all different fields. Phelps also argues that a WPA does much more than design curriculum: the teaching staff, the physical space of the institution, the relationships with different deans and other departments and faculty – these all must be designed.

Quotable Quotes

Object: “to locate administration as design art at the juncture of the practical and productive arts” (7)

“This is the road I advocate for writing programs as transformers: design things that work, but are below the radar, friendly and sprawling, messy and temporary, constantly learning” (26)

“I suggest that it is a mistake to set up a writing program primarily as an instrument to critique or change an institution. It will do that as a consequence of your designing the program to meet the intrinsic goals of its situated design, because writing programs require institutional redesign to locate, support, and implement their characteristic purposes. But theprocess, or rather consequences, should be indirect and ordinary, not grandiose, direct, and instrumentalist.” (26)

Notable Notes

high road/low road of use

designs should not be fixed, they should never end

the challenge of administration is that you cannot design in a bubble: you must jump in and design something that you can’t have complete control, management, or knowledge of. That’s the downfall of the theories presented by Kress and the New London Group

the importance of the feedback loop: remaining sensitive to context, unpredictable, in the moment, temporary – like jazz improv

the importance of construction and building over analysis and critique

Questions: Why is this the way it is? Can it be designed better? Does it have to be this way?

February 22, 2009

Phelps, Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Telling a Writing Program Its Own Story: A Tenth Anniversary  Speech.” In The Writing Program Administrator as Researcher: Inquiry into Action and Reflection. Eds. Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Heinemann, 1998.

 

This version that I am reading and taking notes on is the uncut version. The  speech was significantly cut in the collection.

 

This article combines the tenth anniversary speech Phelps gives to the Syracuse University Writing Program in 1997 with her analysis and reflection on speech as a form  of administrative rhetoric and highlights the intellectual work of both administration and leadership. The speech is divided into three sections – narrative, analysis, and reflection – which are based on the common moves taught in the Syracuse writing studios. Phelps shows how the Writing Program, founded in 1986, can be described as a sort of “Great Group,” who risked chaos in a outpouring of inventiveness and creativity in the early  years of the program. This complex open system became self-organizing, subcritical, and more orderly as the Program reached relatively high “fitness peaks.” However, in order to remain responsive and relevant to changing context, Phelps argues that the Program must be inventive still by bringing in new faculty and new leadership, developing new programs like the graduate program and a major, and by constantly searching out large and small opportunities to connect with other departments, colleges, and outside organizations that will allow the Program to grow, expand, and evolve. Phelps then steps outside her speech and analyzes it as a form of administrative rhetoric, arguing that WPAs, especially women, must not cede their authority as a leader. Rather, they should embrace the public form of administrative rhetoric in the form of speeches for they provide an opportunity to explain to the community that they lead the ideas and principles inherent in their organizing narrative. Strong reflective leadership is not coercive; it is necessary for the survival of a complex, dynamic organization like a writing program.

 

Quotable Quotes

 

“The Writing Program chose the Great Group model, where disparate people are drawn together by mutual commitment to a project and became energized by the power of collaboration, because we believed that it is a social structure more conducive to creativity and more successful in the long run.

In that choice, we risked chaos.”

 

“If the early development of the Writing Program represented the gamble of falling into chaos, after ten years one must imagine that we now risk the possibility of too much order. We are likely to find ourselves trapped on relatively high fitness peaks, where there is a big cost for coming down and trying another one that isn’t likely to prove that much better.” – reminds me of Jefferson/Adams, a  revolution every generation, tension and questioning whether the next wave is going to be as good as what you got already

 

“I came ever more strongly to believe that it is right for writing program administrators to aspire to leadership as an honorable role, to explore and analyze the role of rhetoric in administration, to make creative and ethical use of the rhetorical power their office (and their training) lends them.”

 

 

Notable Notes

 

Great Groups

 

Important sources: Bennis and Biderman (Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration); Gould (Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History); Kaufmann (At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity); Senge (The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization)

 

Reference to working on institutional invention piece

 

Used reflections from people who were in the early years of the program

 

WP wasn’t an  exact Great Group  because the people involved were so heterogeneous; not everyone bought into the idea, so that caused conflict and pain.

 

Ecological/systems  model

 

In a complex open system, there must be smaller, more local groups with autonomy that can grow and evolve, together creating a network to form the entire system

 

Evolution isn’t a linear path – there comes a point where there is an explosion of creativity (supracritical) that then is tamed by a learning or S-curve, when you reach high fitness peaks.

 

That “cascade of novelty in uncoordinated, chaotic interactions” was the fear of those who wanted a common text and curriculum.

 

Coevolving systems

 

Move from romance into a fruitful marriage

 

WPA is a “convenient euphemism” for administrators who don’t want to take on the name of leader – why are we so reluctant to use power wisely?

 

Speech as intellectual work of a writing program administrator

Foucault, What Is an Author

Foucault, Michel. From “What Is an Author?” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP,  2000. 233-246.

 

Foucault shifts attention from the individual author to examining the features of texts that have authors, prioritizing discourse, language itself, instead of authors or even readers. He explains that the role of the author isn’t merely descriptive; it performs an act, an authoring act in society. Four features of the author-function are as follows: it is connected to institutional and societal issues of legal property and appropriation; it is not the same for all discourses and in all cultures and time periods; it is defined through a complex process of assigning and constructing an author by searching for coherence in style, argument, and quality over many texts; and it allows for the plurality of egos, a separation of the author, narrator, and other subjects in the text. Foucault then moves to describe a particular kind of author who arose in the nineteenth century, citing Marx and Freud as examples. They are authors of entire discourses, who produced not only their own texts but a possibility for the production of others, texts that always return to the founding discourse, never debunking it. He distinguishes between a founding act of science and a founding act of discourse. Foucault then suggests what work must be done next: creating a typology of discourse through analyzing the relationships of between an author and a text and investigating the role of subjects and authors as functions of discourse, not existing outside of it.

 

Quotable Quotes

 

Marx, Freud:  “They cleared a space for the introduction of elements other than their own, which, nevertheless, remain within the field of discourse they initiated” (241).

 

“The initiation of a discourse practice is heterogeneous to its ulterior transformations” It “overshadows and is necessarily detached from its later developments and transformations” (242).

 

“The subject (and its substitutes) must be stripped of its creative role  and analysed as a complex and variable function of discourse.” (245)

 

“We can say in our culture, the name of an author is a variable that accompanies only certain texts to the exclusion of others: a private letter may have a signatory, but it does not have an author; a contract can have an underwriter, but not an author; and, similarily,  an anonymous poster attached to a wall may have a writer, but he cannot be an author. In this sense, the function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses in society” (235).

 

Notable Notes

 

Shifts the focus from author to text, from discourse and its functions.

 

Labor-intensive process of assigning an author to a body of work. We believe that the work of an author must be homogenous: there must be unity in its quality, arguments, style, historical place and context. Contradictions must be solved – there can’t be any inherent complications unless they can be explained away.

 

The name of an author functions as a classification, creates relationships between texts and gives text and discourse a sort of permanence in society  (235)

 

February 20, 2009

Robillard, Young Scholars Affecting Composition

Robillard, Amy E. “Young Scholars Affecting Composition: A Challenge to Disciplinary Citation Practices.” College English 68:3 (January 2006) 253-270.

With the publication of an all-undergraduate research and scholarship journal in composition (Young Scholars in Writing), composition has changed (whether scholars have noticed it or not) in two distinctive ways. First, that students can publish in the field has marked a shift from treating writing as a verb, a pedagogical focus (how does one learn how to write) to treating writing as a noun, a more objectified, researched scholarship focus (what is writing and should it be studied.) Second, student scholarship, scholarship that compositionists can take up, argue with, and use in their own scholarship, creates a contradiction in the ways we think about students and how we cite them. It is common practice to protect students in our scholarship by assigning them first-name pseudonyms, but now that they do contribute to the knowledge of our field (are not just products of our pedagogy), we need to consider both the legal and, more importantly, affective functions of citation. How we choose to cite student writing and student work in our own scholarship affects how we think of them – as authors or as passive products of our pedagogy.

Quotable Quotes

“To analyze student writing for what it demonstrates about a particular pedagogy – this is an authorizing move in the discourse of composition studies, perhaps the authorizing move.” (256).

“Citation practices vary, too, according to the status of the person being cited” (262).

“To cite Sahra Ahmed or Silas Kulkarni or Alicia Brazeau is to align oneself with students, to forward the argument that students contribute to the knowledge of composition studies as more than examples of particular pedagogies. To cite students is to forward the argument that writing as a mode of learning (Emig) is a dialogic process; teachers teach students to write, but students, in their writing, teach teachers about more than the results of particular pedagogies” (263).

“To name is to control. To withhold a student’s name is a form of that control” (268).

Notable Notes

Connors and Howard – citations practices

categories for functions of citation for readers, authors, and authors who will be cited (258)

categories for functions of citation of students on both students and composition scholars (266)

we need to teach students about the affective aspects of citation practices

legitimate relationship to students’ work

deep acting

Robillard, Students and Authors in Composition Studies

Robillard, Amy E. “Students and Authors in Composition Studies.” In Authorship in Composition Studies. Eds Tracy Hamler Carrick and Rebecca Moore Howard. Wadsworth Publishing, 2005.

Composition scholarship, by not citing student writing and by calling students by pseudo first names only, constructs students as non-authors, as children. This deficiency model has several problems. First, it perpetuates the idea of the teacher as hero, defined by her students’ successes and failures. Second, it places teachers in an hierarchal position in the classroom, one in which she possesses students (aka “my kids.) Third, it conditions the student to take on the role of a passive reader whose own texts are never circulated and always compared (negatively) to the work of professional writers. Last, by acting as if our students are children in both our teaching and our research, we are continuing the low perception and status of composition in the academy, for our attitudes towards our students are more in line with the attitudes of secondary and elementary teachers than those of our colleagues in other disciplines. Robillard surveys and reviews a number of works in the field, showing how they position and represent students in their discussions, choice of diction, and citation methods.

Quotable Quotes

“A student reads; an author is read” (51)

“In the institutionalized constrast between Author and student, the Author is originary, the student imitative (as is a child). If an Author is autonomous, a student is dependent (as is a child). If an Author is solitary and originary, a student depends on the work of others and is easily influenced (as is a child). If an Author is precise, a student is messy (as is a child). If teachers do not attend to the constructions of students that the discursive practices of the classroom encourage, if they continue to reproduce the constructions of students that they have been working with, they can do no better than to enact this dysfunctional binary” (54).

“Citation of one’s work – positive or negative – is a mark of respect for any writer” (48).

“WIth the respect that is entailed in citation comes the authorial loss of control over the text. To insist on students’ retaining control over their texts is to deny them authorial status” (48).

The “unwritten belief that teachers are judged by the work their students do” (43).

Notable Notes

uses student quote and cites it as we would an author, full name

composition is a field about its students – what other field is?

author/student binary

February 19, 2009

Scott, “The Practice of Usability”

Scott, J. Blake. “The Practice of Usability: Teaching User Engagement through Service-Learning.” Technical Communication Quarterly 17.4 381-412.

Teaching about user-centered design and usability is different from practicing it. This article, categorized as teacher research by the author, centers on the author’s introductory technical writing students, who are asked to enact user-centered design principles in their service learning projects at an Orlando-area HIV planning council (which distributes services to HIV patients in the area.) The students demonstrate knowledge of user-centered design principles, which (like participatory design) integrate the user in the process of design, treating the user(s) not as clients but rather as collaborators. This kind of design process is complex, messy, and complicated, and the author finds that even though students intellectually understand the merits and values of the process, they do not succeed in enacting it. Scott concludes that more time is needed in the classroom – and in the scholarship of the field – dedicated to discussing and talking about the practices of user-centered design. These practical issues, which he describes as metis (flexible intelligence) are breezed over, but they (how to gain access to users, how to communicate with them, how to set deadlines, how to research the institution and the potential users) are the key to implementing a user-centered design and having a successful service-learning experience for both the students and the community organization.

Quotable Quotes

The study shows how his students “gradually came to understand usability as a situated, dynamic, messy, and difficult process and set of practices involving various user-engagement challenges and requiring the flexible adaptation of usability methods” (384).

Our scholarship on user-centered design or service learning “often stop short of foregrounding or even addressing practice-level issues” (406). We need to make “such practices visible” (406)

“By foregrounding the context-specific, complex, difficult, and dynamic practice of usability for students, we can help them develop a flexible intelligence that can serve them as technical communicators and rhetors more generally” (406).

Notable Notes

Cited works: Spinuzzi, Robert Johnson (user-centered design), Huckin (service-learning and technical writing), Linda Flower, JT Grabill

connection between participatory design and user-centered design

data included student assignments, interviews with the students, and pre-and post-course questionnaires, coding responses

25 students from two sections of introductory technical writing in Spring 2005 (research done the following semester)

best to introduce concept of usability in advanced technical writing class or as part of a two-semester sequence because of how much time a complicated service project takes incorportating user-centered design.

ease-based v. user-based design (401)

focusing on practice-level issues is like the classical pedagogical technique of imitation (mimesis) – not straight imitation but rather “a creative process of rearranging and reconstructing rhetorical elements in light of kairos” (404)

Barthes, The Death of the Author

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP Ltd., 2000. 125-130.

Barthes argues that it is not the author who speaks in a text, but rather, language itself. The concept of a single (male) author is one rooted in Enlightenment individualism, an idea so powerful that it reduced the text to an explanation and an understanding of the author. Instead, Barthes claims, an author and a text are born simultaneously (126); the former does not give birth to the latter, for the act of writing is not an act of reporting ideas but, rather, a performative act. Writing and texts do not have single, solitary lines of understanding: they are multivoiced and understanding them can only be a process of disentangling the lines, not completely deciphering them or figuring them out (129). The work of assigning meaning to a text, of compiling the voices into some sort of understandable whole, does not belong to the author/writer. It is the duty of the reader. Barthes calls for “the birth of the reader” at the expense of the Author. (130).

Quotable Quotes

“The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (130).

“A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (129) author-reader

“Everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered” (129)

“Life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred” (128).

A text is a “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (128)

“Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin…Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing” (125).

“The voice loses its origin, the author enters his own death, writing begins” (125).

Notable Notes

not assigning an ultimate final meaning to a text is to refuse God (and reason, science, and law) – very postmodern (129)

assigning an author limits a text, closes it, allows it to be criticized as an object

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