Revolution Lullabye

January 31, 2013

Lang and Baehr, Data Mining

Lang, Susan and Craig Baehr. “Data Mining: A Hybrid Methodology for Complex and Dynamic Research.” College Composition and Communication 64.1 (September 2012): 172-194.

Lang and Baehr argue that data mining is a useful research methodology for researchers and administrators in composition and rhetoric because of its inductive nature and its ability to organize and use large sets of data.  Their article defines data mining, explains how current computer technologies make data mining an efficient and useful research tool, describes the process of data mining, gives an example of it in practice (from their work at Texas Tech), and names the limitation of the methodology.  They offer data mining as a tool for researchers to engage in a RAD research agenda, as called for by Richard Haswell and Chris Anson.  They believe that in this age of increased demand for accountability, data mining can help teachers and administrators develop better assessment techniques and argue for their programs.

Notable Notes

data mining allows for categorization, clustering, and the emergence of associations and patterns (178-179).

distinction: data mining is more inductive – the data comes first (not the hypothesis), and the findings emerge (179).

application of data mining to Chris Anson’s taxonomy of six types of research (research categories) (181-184).

example: why do students earn DFW in first-year writing? What are the factors? Data mining study at Texas Tech

limitations: the complexity and scope of the data; longitudinal studies are necessary to increase validity; it cannot completely substitute for other kinds of research methodology; quantitative methods aren’t as accepted in the field (190-191).

data mining process: (185-186)

  1. identify the problem(s)
  2. select raw source of data
  3. decide what measures or criteria to apply to the data
  4. develop a formal procedure (a repeatable process) for sifting through the data
  5. interpret the results

Quotable Quotes

“Data mining is the iterative process of systematically interpreting, organizing, and making meaning from data sources” (191).

“The increasingly accoutnability-focused climate of higher education demands that we at least begin to explore the use of data-mining technologies” (184).

“Data and text mining extend these activities beyond what is possible for us to do as individuals without the assistance of computer technology, as large amounts of numeric or textual data can be examined for various types of relationships, including classes, clusters, associations, and patterns” (178).

January 30, 2013

Hayles, How We Read

Hayles, N. Katherine. “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.” ADE Bulletin 150 (2010): 62-79.

Hayles defines three kinds of reading – close, hyper, and human-assisted machine – and argues that all three, used synergistically, can help students and literary studies scholars discover patterns, meaning, and context in and across texts.  Her argument is written in resposne to the widely-held notion that digital, onscreen reading has a lasting detrimental affect on reading comprehension skills, as seen through K-12 testing scores, cognitive research on the brain, and anectodal evidence.

Hayles uses her own definition of hyperattention (as opposed to deep attention) to explain how hyperreading is different from close reading, which she argues is one of literary studies’ central values and practices.  Instead of condemning hyperreading, she argues that it is a valuable reading practice, helping students and scholars alike scan and skim large amounts of information quickly, thus identifying the most helpful sources and texts to use. 

Hayles also challenges the idea that human-assisted machine or computer reading (the use of algorithms to detect patterns across a large corpus) is inherently anti-humanistic; she cites Moretti’s application of distant reading principles and argues that the challenge for literary studies scholars is to find useful ways to integrate close, hyper, and machine reading in their interpretive work.

Notable Notes

critiques Carr’s argument that the Internet is changing brain structure (67, 71)

readers scan digital texts differently than print ones (F-shaped scan for digital text, more linear back and forth for print texts, Jakob Nielson) (66)

current students are ‘digitally native’ (62)

close reading defined the discipline of literary studies in the 1970s/1980s- it was a way for the field to congregate around a common value.  Does digital reading change that? Is close reading sufficient? (63)

problem: our classrooms don’t reflect the kinds of reading practices our students engage in – there’s a divide that is probably affecting how much our students learn (63; 65). Connection to Vygotsky’s learning theories.

James Sosonoski (1999) – hyperreading: “Examples include search queries (as in a Google search), filtering by keywords, skimming, hyperlinking, ‘pecking’ (pulling out a few items from a longer text), and fragmenting (163-172)” (66). – Hayles’ update includes juxtaposition (comparing across several open windows) and scanning (66).

what do we make of distraction of hyperreading? clicks, navigating, short bursts of info like tweets, tons of material (67)

hyperreading affects long-term memory (67-68), but is long-term memory a necessary part of the research process? Does every bit of information need to be committed to long-term memory for it to be valuable? (my response)

reference to Moretti as adopting machine reading-like characteristics to literary studies (73-74)

machine reading – relies on visualization, algorithms, mapping, diagramming  (73-75)

definition of a pattern: similarities as well as differences: “I therefore propose the following definition: a pattern consists of regularities that appear through a series of related differences and similarities” (74).

scale (close/hyper/machine) affects pattern, context, meaning (74) – the emphasis changes with the scale (74).

pedagogical examples of teaching hyper/machine reading (75-77): example of the analysis of Time Magazine covers.

Quotable Quotes

“I argue that we cannot do this effectively [convey to students our engagement with complex literary texts] if our teaching does not take place in the zone of proximal development, that is, if we are focused exclusively on print close reading. Before opinion solidifies behind a new version of close reading, I want to argue for a disciplinary shift to a broader sense of reading strategies and their interrelation” (65).

“In digital environments, hyperreading has become a necessity. It enables a reader quickly to construct landscapes of associated research fields and subfields; it shows  range of possibilities; it identifies texts and passages most relevent to a given query; and it easily juxtaposes many different texts and passages” (66).  scholars use these techniques – we need to teach them to students.

“Hyperattention is useful for its flexibility in switching between different information streams, its quick grasp of the gist of the material, and its ability to move rapidly among and between different kinds of texts” (72).

“The problem, as I see it, lies not in hyperattention/hyperreading as such, but rather in the challenges the situation presents for parents and educators to ensure that deep attention and close reading continue to be vibrant components of our reading cultures and interact synergistically with the kind of Web and hyperreading in which our young people are increasingly immersed” (72).

“Indeed, skimming, scanning, and pattern identification are likely to occur with all three reading strategies; their prevalence in one or another is a matter of scale and emphasis rather than clear-cut boundary” (72).

“The large point is that close, hyper, and machine reading each have distinctive advantages and limitations; nevertheless, they also overlap and can be made to interact synergistically with one another” (75).

January 29, 2013

Buckingham, Digital Media Literacies

Buckingham, David. “Digital Media Literacies: Rethinking Media Education in the Age of the Internet.” Research in Comparative and International Education 2.1 (2007): 43-55.

Buckingham, a well-known media education scholar from the UK, argues that the notion of media literacy must be extended beyond a the idea of a functional skill set based on search and evaluation techniques and instead, move towards critical understanding of how information online is authored, produced, and circulated amid social and ideological forces. 

In order to help media educators build students’ critical understanding of digital literacy, Buckingham offers his own framework (2003) of key concepts through which to analyze digital media: representation, language, production, and audience.  He argues that this framework resists the reductive checklists that are given to students to analyze and evaulate the internet and digital media.  These checklists, Buckingham contends, assume that there is some sort of objective truth that can be found in digital media – that the Internet is a neutral tool.  Instead, Buckingham argues, educators need to teach students how digial media (like all forms of rhetoric) is inherently biased and socially and culturally situated.  He points out that the Internet is more shaped by commerical interests than other forms of media.

Buckingham also argues that in order to truly build complex, critical digital literacy, students must not only consume (or read) media, but also produce (write) it. Production, he claims, gives students a deeper understanding of how digital media is built and functions.

Finally, Buckingham complicates the definition of access to include not just physical access to digital technology (computers, software, space), but also certain cultural and social competencies and awareness of digital media.  For example, he argues that even in technologically-rich cultures (like the US and UK), boys and white children have more access and greater compentencies online than girls and minorities.

Notable Notes

His framework (page 48-49)

  • representation – media don’t report, they represent reality.  What is represented? What is not?
  • language – how sites are designed, constructed, and how they function rhetorically (for example, the rhetorical function of hyperlinks)
  • production – who/why are sites produced for? who (or what institutions) affect and shape the information and what you see? impact of commercialization
  • audience – how to readers access sites? who are sites targeted to? how is this interactive online?

has literacy been reduced to a set of skills? Is the term meaningless when juxtaposed with so many other words? (43-44)

differences between functional and critical literacy (44)

the internet is not just an educational tool; how is it really used and consumed by people? how can we draw on that understanding, these grounded behaviors? (45)

functional digital literacy skills quickly become obsolete (like checklists) (46) – we’re looking to build lasting habits of mind

focus of Internet literacy is often safety (esp for children) – European Commission’s “Safer Internet Action Plan” (46)

Buckingham sees digital literacy as an extension of media literacy, media education

create a heuristic?

sources: Bettina Fabos (2004); Ellen Seiter (2005); Nicholas Burbules and Thomas Callister (2000) (they argue that users need to understand how the Web functions as a system)

Internet’s architecture shaped by “commercial, governmental, and military interests” (from Fabos) (47). – connection to who has power, agency, a voice online

replace the focus on locating/evaluating/producing information – broaden that to understanding digital media as “a cultural form” (45)

what we want users to behave like vs. how they actually behave online (45)

Quotable Quotes

“Rather than simply adding media or digital literacy to the curriculum menu, or hiving off ‘information and communication technology’ into a separate subject, we need a much broader reconceptualisation of what we mean by literacy in a world that is increasingly dominated by electronic media. This is not by any means to suggest that verbal literacy is no longer relevant, or that books should be discarded.  However, it is to imply that the curriculum can no longer be confined to a narrow conception of literacy that is defined solely in terms of the medium of print” (53).

“Most uses of computers in schools signally fail to engage with the complex technological and media-saturated environment in which children are now growing up. For the most part, they are narrowly defined, mechanical, and unimaginative. The answer to this problem is not to import ever more fashionable or ‘child-friendly’ devices, or to sugar the pill of learning with a superficial dose of digital entertainment. Digital media literacy represents a more rigorous – but also more enjoyable and motivating – way of addressing the educational challenges of the digital age” (53).

Access needs to be seen not merely in terms of access to technology or to technical skills, but also to cultural forms of expression and communication, and it needs to be acknowledged that students’ access to (and familiarity with) those cultural forms is itself likely to be quite variable” (52).

“In the context of media education, the aim is not primarily to develop technical skills, or to promote ‘self-expression,’ but to encourage a more systematic understanding of how media operate, and hence to promote more reflective ways of using them” (50).

“Media literacy involves ‘writing’ the media as well as ‘reading’ them” (49).

“Nevertheless, it should be apparent that approaching digital media through media education is about much more than simply ‘accessing’ these media, or using them as tools for learning: on the contrary, it means developing a much broader critical understanding, which addresses the textual characteristics of media alongside their social, economic, and cultural implications” (48-49).

“Digital literacy also involves a broader awareness of the global role of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and how they influence the nature of information that is available in the first place” (48)…..”growing importance of commercial influences – particularly as these are often invisible to the user” (48).

“Digital literacy must therefore involve a systematic awareness of how digital media are constructed [designed/produced], and of the unique ‘rhetorics’ of interactive communication” (48). – rhetorical function of links

Critical information literacy: “This means asking questions about the sources of that information, the interests of its producers, and the ways in which it represents the world, and understanding how technological developments and possibilities are related to broader social and economic forces” (46).

“Literacy education cannot be confined simply to the acquisition of skills, or the mastery of particular practices; it also must entail a form of ‘critical framing’ that enables the learner to take a theoretical distance from what they have learned, to account for its social and cultural location, and to critique and extend it” (45) draws on Cope & Kalantzis, 2000

Literacy education “entails the acquisition of meta-language” (45)

January 25, 2013

Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees

Moretti, Franco. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. London: Verso, 2005.

Moretti uses three distant reading approaches, borrowed from the social and natural sciences (graphs, maps, trees) as an way to investigate literary history on a large scale.  He argues that the corpus of literature is so large that it is necessary, in order to understand its evolution, to use quantitative approaches, like maps, graphs, and trees, which place emphasis not on individual texts but on larger movements in the field.

His book is divided into three main chapters – Graphs; Maps; Trees.  In each chapter, he demonstrates how the particular distant reading approach helps him see patterns that are not discernable on the level of the individual text.  He is interested in the history of the book, and his work builds off of other literary historians.  He argues that his quantitative approach is a more methodical or “rational” way to approach literary history, and he argues that the forms that emerge in the process illustrate the forces that shape the texts and the field.

Moretti asks how his graphs, trees, and models work as a theories to change how literary scholars think about their work and the distinctions that have been made in the literary corpus – do they still hold true?

Notable Notes

Graphs – looks at the rise and fall of the novel in both Britain and in Japan, Italy, Spain, and Nigeria over 300 years.  The number of books published a year seems to intersect with political and social movements, revolutions and wars

Maps – focuses on the mapping of locations, characters, events, in the five volumes of Mary Mitford’s five volumes Our Village (1824-1832)  The novels map onto concentric circles, but over the course of the five volumes, the activity becomes more and more distant from the village at the center

Trees – draws on Darwin’s evolutionary tree, shows the divergence, emergence, and divergence again of syntax-specific constructions (free indirect style in modern narrative 1800-2000)

Trees have horizontal and vertical movement, space and time

Quotable Quotes

“The models I have presented also share a clear preference for explanation over interpretation; or perhaps, better, for the explanation of general structures over the interpretation of individual texts” (91).

His name for the what his graphs, maps, and trees have in common: “a materialist conception of form” (92)

Maps – they help us understand and see forces that shape texts: “form as a diagram of forces” (64)

“Each pattern is a clue” (57)

“What do literary maps do…First, they are a good way to prepare a text for analysis. You choose a unit – walks, lawsuits, luxury goods, whatever – find its occurrences, place them in space…or in other words: you reduce the text to a few elements, and abstract them from the narrative flow, and construct a new, artificial object like the maps that I have been discussing. And, with a little luck, these maps will be more than the sum of their parts: they will possess ‘emerging’ qualities, which were not visible at the lower level” (53)

“Not that the map is itself an explanation, of course: but at least, it offers a model of the narrative universe which rearranges its components in a non-trivial way, and may bring some hidden patterns to the surface” (54).

“I began this chapter by saying that quantitative data are useful because they are independent of interpretation; then, that they are challenging because they often demand an interpretation that transcends the quantitative realm” (30).

**Important point: quantitative models and research “provides data, not interpretation” (9).

“A field this large cannot be understood by stitching together separate bits of knowledge about individual cases, because it isn’t a sum of individual cases: it’s a collective system, that should be grasped as such, as a whole” (4)

Purpose: “A more rational literary history. That is the idea.” (4) – “a quantitative approach to literature.” – methodical, patterns, groups.

“From texts to models, then; and models drawn from three disciplines with which literary studies have had little or no interaction: graphs from quantitative history, maps from geography, and trees from evolutionary theory” (1-2)

“‘Distant reading,’ I have once called this type of approach; where distance is however not an obstacle, but a specific form of knowledge: fewer elements, hence a sharper sense of their overall interconnection. Shapes, relations, structures. Forms. Models.” (1)

January 24, 2013

Mueller, Grasping Rhetoric and Composition by Its Long Tail

Mueller, Derek. “Grasping Rhetoric and Composition by Its Long Tail: What Graphs Can Tell Us about the Field’s Changing Shape.” College Composition and Communication 64.1 (Septembter 2012): 195-223.

Mueller investigates 25 years of citations from the journal College Composition and Communication (1987-2011) to explore the discipline’s citation practices and changing shape.  He uses graphs, lists, and tables (an application of distant reading methods drawn from Franco Moretti’s work) to demonstrate the field’s growing specialization, as shown by the diminishing frequency of top-cited scholars among the data set of citations.  He uses Chris Anderson’s concept of the long tail to describe what he sees in the shifting citation practices of CCC articles: not only have the top-cited authors changed over 25 years (the scholars most frequently cited in 1987-1991 are not those most frequently cited in 2007-2011), but also there has been a growing number of once- or twice-cited authors or scholars, which shows the expansion and increasingly specialization of composition and rhetoric.  Mueller offers his study as a way to query the field and ask how our graduate education curriculum and professional development prepare future scholars for the field of the future.

Notable Notes

Chris Anderson – Wired magazine 2004: the long tail.  Anderson used the long tail to describe market practices, showing how online retailers are able to capitalize on less-popular niche markets (Amazon v. Borders.)  Pareto distribution/power law

contains a series of graphs – some looking at the aggregate data, others split into five-year subsets

distant reading – systematic, quantitative approach to data, a different scale than close reading, and this larger scale helps us recognize patterns and developments that are not always apparent at close range. Table of contents, article abstracts as an example of distant reading.  They enable decision making: “Readers rely on these devices to make quick decisions about whether to read a particular article or not, but reading the journal through these devices alone is not quite the same as reading a scholarly article in the common sense of the activity” (198).  (Mueller cites Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink in his endnote.)

the usefulness of graphs and distant reading – they encourage new questions

His graphs/lists/tables:

  • Figure 1- page count and citation count over 25 years (both have increased)
  • Figure 2- 102 most frequently cited authors in CCC from 1987-2011
  • Figure 3 – top ten most frequently cited authors in CCC from 1987-2011, divided into 5-year intervals
  • Figure 4 – Chris Anderson’s “Anatomy of the Long Tail”
  • Figure 5 – the long tail, references to unique names in CCC works cited 1987-2011
  • Figures 6-10 – the long tail, references to unique names in CCC works cited 1987-2011, split into 5-year intervals

there is no one stable field.  Growing specialization isn’t a problem to solve; it is something to query and base our actions on (215-217)

more research in the dataset – how does an author’s citation practices change over time? Are citation practices from graduates of certain programs similar? (214)

the problem of keeping up with scholarship in the field.  How can one read the whole long tail?  How has the field changed because of increasing specialization? (214)

our understanding of the field is based on our own vantage point (217)

extension of study done by Phillips, Greenberg, and Gibson in 1993

16,726 citations in 491 journal articles published in CCC from 1987-2011 (25 years) (197)

Who was central when? What does that say about our field? (203)

problem: “citation listings lack dimension” – the works cited does not indicate the importance or general impact of a citation on the work as a whole

dappled field (206)

Quotable Quotes

“From graphs, then, come new insights, new provocations, and new questions: what has changed, over time, in the relationship between the head of the curve and the long tail?” (215)

“A deliberate adjustment in the level of detail at which we ordinarily experience texts: this is a key motive when producing graphs as a distant reading method, and it is a common tactic for mediating large datasets, including scholarly corpora” (197-198).

“Certainly the figures at the top tell us something about citation practices and centrality in the journal’s scholarly conversation; however, the larger number of figures at the bottom indicates something more. It is, after all, in this long, flat expanse of unduplicated references that we can begin to assess just how broad-based the conversations (in a given journal) have grown – and just how much the centered, coherent, and familiar locus of conversation, based on citation practices, has slid” (210).

“Burke’s parlor is nowadays full and teeming, more crowded than ever before” (214).

“A changing disciplinary density: this is not a condition for us to solve; nonetheless, it demands a certain reckoning, particularly for graduate education and professional development” (219).

January 16, 2013

Selfe and Hawisher, Methodologies of Peer and Editorial Review: Changing Practices

Selfe, Cynthia L. and Gail E. Hawisher. “Methodologies of Peer and Editorial Review: Changing Practices.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 672-698.

Selfe and Hawisher, in this section of a two-part symposium in CCC on peer review, describe the history and the changing nature of prepublication and postpublication peer review.  They explain the strengths and drawbacks of traditional double-blind or doubly anonymous peer review (in which both the author and reviewers remain anonymous to one another), and then describe how the advent of digital publishing and using electronic platforms for peer review has changed the process to be one that is more open and collaborative.  They draw on the “gift economy” argument by Kathering Fitzpatrick (Planned Obsolescence) to illustrate changing perceptions and expectations for academic publishing, such as a reconceptualization of copyright, access, and the ultimate purposes and aims of academic scholarship. In their study of peer and editorial review, they interviewed the editors of three digital presses and four online journals in composition and rhetoric in order to discover how the digital environment has changed peer review and publication. They find that online publications, especially ones that utilize coding, video, and audio features, allow for and perhaps even require a more collaborative and transparent relationship among the authors, editors, and reviewers than traditional anonymous peer review.

Notable Notes

challenge of digital publication: maintain integrity, professionalism

hierarchy of prestige of journals is maintained by senior scholars passing on preferences/expectations to junior scholars

citation indices only contain a small percentage of the field’s journals (684)

peer review relies on volunteer efforts to edit, review articles – time-consuming process that is not often recognized as part of scholarly work

Quotable Quotes

“A combination, then, of understanding review as a collaborative process supported by dramatic changes in digital communication has influenced many editors in the field to make reviews more open” (687).

“As should be quite obvious, this exploration of changing peer review practices and their consequences is just a beginning and has been helped immeasurably not only by colleagues who edit established journals but also by those who pioneer the creation of new venues through which the field may share its research and those who participate willingly within such experimental systems. We are convinced that only through such exploration and experimentation will we, as a large and complex profession, develop better, more productive, and more humane ways of dealing with the peer review of scholarship” (693).

January 11, 2013

Weiser, Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process

Weiser, Irwin. “Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 645-672.

Weiser’s essay, included in this issue’s Symposium on Peer Review, describes the role of peer review in the tenure and promotion process. Weiser’s explanations, taken from his experiences as a faculty member, WPA, department chair, and dean at two different universities (Purdue University and York College of Pennsylvania), show the variance of the tenure and promotion process at American colleges and universities. Wesier argues that this variance is not a drawback: institutions have different missions, and their expectations for tenure (scholarship, teaching, and service/engagement) need to reflect those particular university and department-level missions.

Weiser organizes his essay through a series of questions: Who is reviewed? Who reviews? What is reviewed (and by whom)? What are the criteria for review? Are reviews (always) confidential?  He spends considerable time in the essay describing the purpose and function of external letters of evaluation, a requirement for tenure that is not universal yet increasing (almost all research, PhD-granting universities require external letters.) He distinguishes between external letters of support and external letters of evaluation, and argues that these external letters should only guide the internal committees who are ultimately charged with the decisions of tenure and promotion.

At the end of his article, Weiser offers a series of questions that can be used as a heuristic for developing clear, objective, and fair tenure and promotion processes.  The questions are addressed to the multiple stakeholders in the process: candidates up for tenure; members of a tenure and promotion committee; external reviewers.

Weiser also argues that the processes for tenure and promotion need to be revisable so that they continue to reflect current expectations, values, and realities.  He specifically cites the shrinking opportunties to publish scholarly monographs, the advent of digital journals and digital publication venues, and the emergence of scholarship of teaching and engagement as contemporary realities that need to be addressed in the construction of tenure and promotion guidelines.

Notable Notes

history of peer review in tenure and promotion tied to AAUP tenure guidelines (1940) and the history of peer review in publication.

“peer” can mean multiple things (654)

the local levels of review are the most important – future committees and levels base their recommendations off of them (653).

Quotable Quotes

“Peer review, both internal and external, serves two important purposes in the academy. First, it provides the opportunity for the work of colleagues to be evaluated and acknowledged for its contributions in the classroom, in the profession, and in the wider culture. Second, through the system of checks and balances that assures that work is being evaluated by numerous people, many of who base their evaluations only on the accomplishments of a candidate and not on their personal knowledge of her or him, peer review provides a level of protection for candidates from personal or intellectual biases. Peer review supports the foundation of tenure: the preservation of academic freedom and the protection of faculty from unwarranted dismissal” (670).

“And it should be clear that variation in policies and practices is appropriate, because it acknowledges the impracticality and unfairness of a one-size-fits-all set of criteria that are applied regardless of institutional mission. Evaluation for candidates for tenure and promotion must be viewed in context of mission, with recognition that different emphases on research, teaching, and service are appropriate” (665).

“There appears to be an increasingly common agreement that faculty are members of multiple communities – communities of engaged teachers whose work can be – perhaps best can be – evaluated locally, but also of communities of scholars whose discursive work is best evaluated by other members of those communities, people who present at the same conferences, publish in the same journals (or edit them), and are members of the same professional organizations” (655).

January 10, 2013

Kerschbaum, Avoiding the Difference Fixation

Kerschbaum, Stephaine L. “Avoiding the Difference Fixation: Identity Categories, Markers of Difference, and the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 616-644.

Kerschebaum, challenging the idea of difference as categorical and static, offers up a definition of difference as dynamic, emergent, and relational.  Difference, she argues, is rhetorical and therefore cannot be fixed.  In order to find and identify difference, teachers need to be attune to “markers of difference,” which emerge in communicative acts.  Kerschebaum uses a short transcript of two students discussing an essay draft in a peer review to demonstrate how these markers of difference affect relationships and identities.  She calls on teachers of writing to be more attentive to the markers of difference that emerge in the classroom and to use these markers to talk about and address difference in a way that resists categories and stable identities.

Notable Notes

fixing difference v. marking difference (619)

uses Bakhtin to describe how difference is emergent, dynamic, and relational (624-627)

human beings rely on categorical identification to make meaning, but those categories are not always or ever accurate (622)

uses her own experiences as a deaf woman to explain how difference emerges through relationships

reviews scholarship in writing studies on recognizing and understanding the nature of difference

suggests that attention to markers of difference in classroom interactions can help cultivate three habits of mind from the Framework openness, flexibility, metacognition

Quotable Quotes

“A marker-based orientation to difference is crucial for contemporary writing research because when we write and read, we wrestle with not just texts, but with selves” (623).

“The remainder of this article, then, suggests a new approach to difference in which teachers and researchers can practice a kind of attention to difference that cultivates awarenesss of new details, provides opportunity to interpret and re-interpret thsoe details, and contextualizes them within specific moments of writing, teaching, and learning” (622).

“Difference is not ‘out there’ waiting to be found and identified but is always coming-to-be through the here-and-now of interaction” (626).

Newcomb, Sustainability as a Design Principle for Composition

Newcomb, Matthew. “Sustainability as a Design Principle for Composition.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 593-615. Print.

Newcomb argues that design and sustainability principles can be incorporated into composition by encouraging students to develop situational creativity, a particular habit of mind that encourages invention, innovation, and the evaluation of multiple solutions to a given problem.

Newcomb follows other scholars such as Anne Frances Wysocki, Geoffrey Sirc, and Richard Marback to argue for the intergration of design into composition studies.  Newcomb, however, takes this argument further by explaining the importance of sustainability to creating designs (and compositions) that affect future relationships as much as those in the present. He combines theories of design and sustainability into the working term “sustainable design” and explains how this principle can shape our understanding and our students’ understanding of composition and rhetoric.

Newcomb surveys scholarship in composition and rhetoric that interrogates design and sustainability principles, demonstrating the ethical considerations of sustainable design – the idea that a design solution might need to fit and address future relationships and realities, not just present ones.  He uses the US Constitution as an example of sustainable composition: a composition that can be perpetually revised through the process of amendments and one that acknowledges that future circumstances cannot be known.  His discussion of the Constitution and the 10,000 year clock problem demonstrates the importance for long-term thinking, of considering the future when composing.

Newcomb suggests ways teachers of writing can encourage sustainable design and situational creativity in their classrooms.  He encourages the adoption of experiment-based or problem-based learning in the writing classroom. One idea he proposes is having students sketch multiple prototypes instead of one rough draft, much like a designer would do, before deciding on the best possible direction for a composition.

Newcomb’s explanation of situational creativity as a habit of mind fits into the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing, and his positioning of rhetoric as design emphasizes the productive nature of rhetoric. He asks how we can adjust our curriculum to emphasize the development of situational creativity.

Notable Notes

Amazon.com 10,000 year clock challenge – how can you design a clock that lasts 10,000 years – how can you anticipate the environmental, political, economic, social challenges of the next 10,000 years? (593-594)

US Constitution as sustainable composition (600)

Sustainability in composition – not as a subject matter to investigate but rather as a way to think.

literature in design/composition: Richard Marback, Anne Frances Wysocki, Geoffrey Sirc, Todd Taylor, Nathan Shedroff

literature in sustainability/composition: Derek Owens, Donehower/Hogg/Schell (rural literacies), Fleckenstein (ecology), Cooper (ecology/systems thinking), Dobrin/Weisser

Quotable Quotes

“Whether through environmental and language impacts, global identity, or the constraints on a situation, sustainable design in composition is frequently about thinking about the long term” (605).

“Thoughtful composition, then, can be more about imagining a future set of relationships, rather than looking for a specific, immediate impact in a situation. Imagining a variety of relationships allows students to think about big issues and puts them in place to develop new passions. Most writing classes are conceived in terms of composing texts, but that can miss the importance of all the relationaships around texts. The field of design aids in shifting that emphasis. Design encourages writers to focus on composing relationships and ecosystems, rather than texts. Instead of asking about visual elements, or constraints, or even human impact, design should be about how something fits with the world around it” (607).

“Sustainable design can reanimate a composition curriculum, while retaining its common rhetorical grounding, by approaching writing as something always based on relationship-oriented scenarios” (610).

design thinking = “It begins by constructing design thinking in rhetoric and composition as working with difficult rhetorical problems where no right answer is available” (598).

“Design and rhetoric are inextricably intertwined, and both are about action and ‘creation’ in the world” (599).

January 8, 2013

Brent, Crossing Boundaries: Co-op Students Relearning to Write

Brent, Doug. “Crossing Boundaries: Co-op Students Relearning to Write.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 558-592. Print.

Brent, through a study of how six university students adapted to the new rhetorical challenges of a professional work environment, argues that it is the conglomerate experiences of their academic careers – not just the discrete bits of rhetorical knowledge they might learn in writing or communication classes – that prepare students to transfer academic rhetorical knowledge to solve professional rhetorical problems.

Brent followed six students from the University of Calvary who participated in four-month-long co-ops in a variety of professional careers.  He interviewed them about their work experiences and asked them to reflect on how their rhetorical education at the university helped them write in their new professional environments.  Although he noted that the students had widely differing experiences, he was able to glean several common threads from their experiences.  The most prominent, which the students cited often, was how their professional communication course helped them write clearly and concisely, which they perceived as a valuable skill in the workplace.  Other common themes Brent noticed was how they all had to do some sort of research, adapt their writing to different audiences, read critically, and multitask.  Brent argues that these general rhetorical skills are not just taught in writing courses – students develop them holistically across their academic experiences – but, Brent also contends, writing teachers have a particular place in this larger experience, because they are in a position to help students think consciously about the skills and knowledge they bring to bear to different rhetorical situations.

Brent reviews the literature of transfer, showing the limitations of emprical studies that seem to suggest that the transfer of rhetorical skills and knowledge from the academic enviroment to the workplace happens infrequently or not at all.  Brent contends that what we should value is not the transfer of discrete skills – like how to write a proposal or another particular genre – but instead, we as educators should be concerned with developing flexible schemas and habits of mind that allow students to transform their rhetorical knowledge to meet new situations.

Notable Notes

the research in professional environments is not as slow or meticulous as the research students are expected to do in academia: in fact, “the professional research process as described by the students sounds suspiciously like the process of desparate last-minute searching that is often cited as the one really used by many students, as apposted to the more meticulous process that mirrors what scholars do and teachers espouse” (587).

the six students were not selected because their jobs were writing-specific; writing is required in most all work environments.

what students took away from their professional writing/communication courses: 1. writing concisely; 2. sense of how professional documents are formatted/organized for some sort of hierarchy; 3. “highly general strategies for managing new task environments” (586).

helpful review of studies of learning transfer in writing studies and cognition

rhetorical performance/competence (560).

his definition of rhetorical education is limited to postsecondary rhetorical education and extracurricular experiences that might contribute to it (559-560).

Carl Bereiter: the transfer of dispositions or “habits of mind” (563).

when students are confronted with new genres/rhetorical situations, they often turn to Google (a strategy also used by professionals.) – a common “survival skill” (571)

Quotable Quotes

“If our goal in teaching writing (particularly but not exclusively professional writing) is to facilitate learning transformation rather than learning transfer, the implications for both research and pedagogy are enormous. One: although we may scale back any hope of teaching nuggets of rhetorical knowledge that can be unproblematically applied to new situations, we need not despair of being able to teacher more general rhetorical knowledge that can help our students perform rhetorcially outside our classrooms. Two: we need more research to refine our understanding of what knowledge is most amenable to transformation, and how we might help students acquire it” (565).

“They demonstrated good rhetorical survival instincts that had been developed in order to survive varied academic writing tasks, but that appeared to carry over as a means of dealing with new workplace genres” (586).

“Put more simply, it appears that the academic discourse environment as a whole, not just isolated courses on writing, had helped them learn how to learn” (588).

“While the case studies I have presented don’t settle any details of exactly what a rhetorical education might look like, the study does suggest that an understanding of how to extract genre features from models, how to analyze an audience, and how to use genre knowledge to interpret information will help students develop rhetorical knowledge that they can transform when thrown in the deep end of new rhetorical environments. In addition, if we can help them become more conscious about what to observe and what questions to ask in new rhetorical environments, we will have gone a long way toward helping them transform, if not simply transfer, this knowledge” (590).

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