Revolution Lullabye

August 20, 2012

Micciche, For Slow Agency

Micciche, Laura R. “For Slow Agency.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 73-90.

Micciche argues “for slow agency” for writing program administrators. She notes that in WPA scholarship and conversations, the emphasis is often on “big agency” activities: creating programs, drafting and implementing assessments and curricula, managing the hiring and training processes of new teachers. These “big agency” activities take a lot of effort and a lot of time, and the pace is often frenzied.  Micciche draws on the principle of hypermiling to suggest that the pace of WPA work could be slowed down without sacrificing the eventual attainment of goals. She argues that reaching for collaborative action, which takes more time but involves more stakeholders in decisions, is a more sustainable and healthy approach to administrative work.

Micciche uses several examples from her own WPA work (crafting a new curriculum, implementing a new placement procedure for first-year writing) to show how slowing down and allowing space for reflection and discussion works better than fast, top-down administrative decisions. Micciche suggests that WPAs who employ slow agency do so by splitting large projects into mutliple phases and publically documenting the progress of each stage to higher administration, which adds to an environment of transparency. Micciche contends that by slowing down, by changing the pace, resources – especially human resources – are preserved and protected, one of the primary jobs of a writing program administrator.

Notable Notes

WPAs are evaluated on measurable progress – leads to burnout sometimes

discussion of Jim Berlin’s doorstop – the artifacts that surround us and how they embody our program’s history and philosophies

productive stillness = reflection, thinking, collaboration, discussion

don’t abuse your resources

how is the teacher evaluation committee not a progress narrative?

this idea that we must do the impossible easily and quickly

we are in a network of relationships when we do WPA work; there is no straight linear path to race in order to get where you need to be.

economics of speed/fast capitalism, speed as a commodity

suspended agency = practicing vulnerability (80)

organizational time is slow – remember that and use that. In the business world, managers break projects into phases

Quotable Quotes

“I contend here that agency can be figured in myriad ways, including the counter-intuitive view of agency as action deferred. Deferral is not necessarily a sign of powerlessness, inactivity, or dereliction of duty. On the contrary, it creates much-needed space for becoming still and getting places, allowing for regnerative returns” (74).

“Among other effects, this scholarship provides us with (sometimes uneven) progress narratives that situate our everyday actions, in all of their incomplete, compromised, and ambivalent glory, within broad historical context, suggesting that the long haul provides hope for the sustainability of WPA work.” (77) – about WPA narratives

“Indeed, ever-depleting resources of all kinds – physical spaces, support services, teachers, good health, funding, patience – are heavy on one’s mind when directing a writing program” (78) – need for pacing and preservation of resources

“hypermiling does not compromise one’s ability to get anywhere; it merely slows the pace of arrival. This slight shift in priorities – from fast to gradual arrival…” (78)

“The speed of getting things done, along with the enormity of tasks involved, creates ideologies and practices that disrespect and dehumanize programs and people.” (79)

“This view of administration permits us to depict writing programs as a swirl of actors, things, structures, economics, and forms of matter always interacting to create effects.” (80) – “recognizing relationality as central to endurance, resourcefulness, and sustainability.” (80-81)

“But we should empower ourselves to slow down sometimes, grant ourselves enough agency to defer action in cases for which we need to be in the moment rather than racing against moments or believing that every request or problem requires an immediate response.” (87).

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