Revolution Lullabye

January 10, 2013

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 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).

December 30, 2010

Phelps, Praxis as Wisdom in Action

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Praxis as Wisdom in Action.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, St. Louis, March 1988.

Phelps addresses the practice/theory divide in the field and argues that at best, composition should be thought as phronesis, or practical wisdom (drawing on Aristotle, Gadamer, Dewey, and Freire.) She argues that the field needs to study the teaching of composition as a process, and to take the research of composition pedagogy seriously – that a teacher interprets a situation much the way a reader interprets a text. She uses the Syracuse Writing Program’s program of professional development (which emphasizes critical reflection and teacher-research) and Stephen North and Donald Scholes.

Notes and Quotes

uses coordinating group system to explain North’s “lore” and Scholes “practical knowledge”…what became Syracuse’s “teacher talk”

reflection-in-action; practice disciplined by knowledge

Phelps, Fitting the Institution That’s There

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “Fitting the Institution That’s There.” National Conference of Teachers of English, Los Angeles, November 1987.

In this 1987 NCTE presentation, Phelps describes how program design is an extension of process theory and argues for WPAs to define and see program construction as a design problem. Phelps explains how starting an independent writing program from the ground up involves working in and through chaos. She points out that writing program design has a “human element,” and that WPAs must design programs, balance costs and plan long-term goals always with the thinking of how changes and systems will affect the people working in them. She uses the first two years of the Syracuse Writing Program to explain her theory of writing program design.

Notes and Quotes

“But if teachers are taking such active roles in the Proqram, we need a model of program administration that empowers them to act on their ideas. For this reason among others we are designing a collaborative, entrepeneurial, decentralized administrative structure, cultivating leaders among the faculty of teaching assistants and part-time instructors, trying to diffuse authority and responsibility throughout the Program. Besides the intellectual and ethical justification, we need a much more professional, committed, expert faculty if we are to move the Program out into the university at large, working with other faculty, not to mention the reforms we are undertaking within our own course responsibilities.” (4)

Phelps, A Different Ideal and Its Practical Results

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. “A Different Ideal – and Its Practical Results.” Modern Language Association, San Francisco, December 1991.

This MLA conference presentation is written in response to the CCCC Statement on Professional Standards, and Phelps questions the ideal teaching community and writing program structure that seems implied by the Statement – one in which the program is staffed entirely of tenured or tenurable teacher-scholars. Arguing (like others) that this homogeneous teaching faculty solution is an impossible fantasy, Phelps uses the Syracuse Writing Program to argue for a different kind of practical solution – one that relies on a heterogeneous teaching community. Phelps points out that the Statement “set off an internal class conflict” within the field, one that the field has largely ignored, between the teacher-practicioners, who make up the majority of those who teach college composition, and the tenured faculty and administrators who oversee writing programs. This divide parallels the “theory/practice” divide pervasive in the field and in English in general. Phelps also points out that the idea that the academy (except for the adjunct professors) is a homogeneous community is a complete myth -the academy is extremely hierarchal, with vast differences in prestige and pay that vary according to discipline, gender, etc. Phelps argues that arguing for a heterogenous teaching community, one where there is a position and value to part-time, non-tenured teaching force, is a practical and ethical goal at the university, one that could value diversity.

Notes and Quotes

“First, I want to object to the principle of solving problems by considering desires independent of realities. This approach strikes me as irresponsible and quixotic. I propose instead that, like engineers and architects, we design workable solutions as a relationship between our goals and reality constraints” (2).

“But my point is that the 4Cs Statement errs in trying to impose a universal answer when what is needed is imagination, flexibility, and fresh thinking about goals as well as means.” (3)

Syracuse Writing Program: creating a hybrid, heterogenous community isn’t easy. There are “difficult moral dilemmas of differential status and rewards” that the Program must deal with, and developed principles to guide decisions. They are:

  • “to distinguish the person and the respect due his or her contributions and personal dignity from level of pay, responsibilities, status, authority, ambition, or influence. These are often mixed in unexpected ways in a given individual.”
  • “to cultivate options for all members through a vigorous program of professional development. Employment is exploitation only where people have no choices. Also, professional development is an intrinsic reward that increases individuals’ marketability and variety of options.”
  • “to make merit rewards of all kinds (beyond decent, fair treatment and support for professional development) commensurate with our community values, which ultimately derive from the aim to offer our undergraduate students the best possible program.” (6)

These rewards include leadership positions, release time, merit pay, summer stipends

It is all about design, working in reality: “combining very hard work with a strategy of turning liabilities into assets to maximize good results in a realistic framework. There is no end point in such a design, only frameworks for progress.” (7)

June 17, 2009

Trimbur, The Problem of Freshman English (Only)

Trimbur, John. “The Problem of Freshman English (Only): Toward Programs of Study in Writing.” WPA 22:3 (Spring 1999) 9-30.

Trimbur articulates two of the problems of the first-year writing course: first, it tries to compact an entire field’s inquiry, research, discussion, and debates into a single course and second, it perpetuates a First-World English-Only attitude in American colleges and universities by privileging English vernacular literacy over other languages. He argues for the creation of larger curriculum in writing (minors, concentrations, and majors) to solve both of these problems. First, it will rescue the first-year course from being the only child of the discipline – the sole site of study and pedagogy in writing and rhetoric – transform it into an introduction to the discipline, where ideas and theories can be introduced and built on in later courses. Second, this major can and should reach beyond the traditional English department and seek interdisciplinary connections across the campus, finding ways to connect disciplines, faculty, and students toward the study of writing in the context of global, international, multilingual literacies. Such minors and majors need to be locally constructed and situated, and must be designed through answering hard questions of disciplinary identity: what do we study? what are our theories? how to our courses connect and build upon each other?

Quotable Quotes

“the relation of the study and teaching of writing to English departments is both accidental and overdetermined – the result not of a necessary belongingness between the two but of a particular historical conjuncture when written composition replaced rhetoric just as English departments were taking shape in the modern university.” (27)

“curriculum planning that looks for interfaces between disciplines, programs, students, and faculty” (25).

Notable Notes

first-year course is overpacked, overprogrammed like an only child

grad programs churning out students to teach and administer one course – what other field is so centered around a single course? shouldn’t our research, theories inform more than a single course?

composition and literature have worked together to promote vernacular, English-Only literacy and a homongenous national culture

June 16, 2009

Norman, Emotional Design

Norman, Donald. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Designers must account for people’s emotional and cognitive responses to three aspects or levels inherent in  any design: visceral (immediate, automatic, appearance-based); behavioral (function, pleasure and effectiveness of use); and reflective (personal satisfaction through memories, self-image, intellectualization.) The things we like act as symbols to us and have meaning in our lives. Norman describes and shows many examples of designs that successfully tap into a person’s affect – their subconscious value judgments that translate into emotions. Good designs are also rhetorical: they fit a particular context, culture, location, and audience, so no one design can be univerally appealing. Good designers are those who are able to keenly observe people’s behaviors and tap into people’s unarticulated needs, seeing the product not as a decontextualized thing but something that is used by someone.

Quotable Quotes

William Morris: If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  (“The Beauty of Life” 1880)

“The emotional side of design may be more critical to a product’s success than its practical elements” (5)

Notable Notes

cupholders as an unarticulated consumer need

personalization and customization

good designs seduce people – Csikszentmihalyi’s flow

success at the reflective level can outweigh the other two aspects – visceral and behavioral

June 11, 2009

Wysocki, The Multiple Media of Texts

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media.” In What Writing Does and How It Does It. Eds. Bazerman and Prior. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 123-161.

Wysocki’s chapter addresses students and has three main parts: first, she lays out her basic argument for the visual, rhetorical nature of all texts, printed and onscreen; second, she introduces elements of visual texts that students can identify (typography, shapes, pictures, video, animation, and sound) and gives an outline about how a student might analyze a visual text; and third, she uses extended examples of visual textual analyses to argue that composing with images and visual features shouldn’t just anticipate and provide for easy audience reading. Rather, the visual nature and elements of onscreen and paper texts should be used rhetorically and deliberately to make points and challenge readers to consider the cultural and historical frameworks through which they read and interpret texts.

Quotable Quotes

move from making user-friendly, predictable texts that serve the audience’s purpose to “making visual and interactive compositions that ask audiences to question, first, how they came to have their expectations, and, then, the limitations and constraints of those expectations” (157).

learning to compose visually is “learning to observe well” (159).

Notable Notes

analysis: identify elements, name their relationships, and then expand to consider how those relationships and element connect to larger contexts and arguements

basic points: 1. all texts are visual in nature 2. a text’s visual nature gives a clue to its genre 3. a text’s visual components perform important rhetorical and persuasive work 4. cultural attitudes to visual elements change over time 5. choices in visual presentation have to be seen through cultural frameworks 6. composing a text means making deliberate choices for how to shape the page or screen to direct the audience. (123-126)

move from analyzing what’s on the page or screen to asking how that elicts readers’ responses, the cultural frames through which readers respond, why some texts are more accessible than others, the politics and economics of text production and circulation – who we are and who we will become

June 9, 2009

Emig, Writing as a Mode of Learning

Emig, Janet. “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” CCC 28:2 (May 1977) 122-128.

Emig, in this early article that articulates the importance of a writing-centered English classroom, argues that writing is a preferrable way for students to learn because it allows students to be active producers originating ideas. Writing uses both hemispheres of the brain and involves all three of Jerome Bruner’s learning categories: the hand, the eye, and the brain. Writing is integrated, propelled through cycles of self-reflection, connective, engaged, personal, and self-rhythmed, all attributes of higher-level thinking and learning. Writing, as opposed to talking, forces students to negotiate and shuttle between the past, the present, and the future.

Notable Notes

move to make students producers, not consumers

curious distinction Emig alludes to – that writing is different than other forms of composing (art, music, dance, architecture, film, and math and science.) She doesn’t expand on that, but it would be interesting to know what exactly she sees as the difference. She seems to prioritize writing over these other creative design arts.

individualized education in writing – make it self-rhythmed

shuttling between past, present, and future requires skills in both analysis and synthesis

June 6, 2009

Drucker, Figuring the Word

Drucker, Johanna. Figuring the Word: Essays on Books, Writing, and Visual Poetics. New York: Granary Books, 1998.

This is a collection of Drucker’s essays from the 1980s and 1990s that focus on her central scholarly, artistic, and literary investigation: the importance of understanding and being aware of the materiality of writing, of mark-making. She explains in some of these essays how electronic, digital writing is changing her understanding of the physical materiality of writing and printing: it loses some of the historical and identification certainty of a handwritten, signed, physical text since it is vulnerable to change and feels alienated because computerized text loses some human individuality. For Drucker, physical materiality encodes history and identity in a text.

Quotable Quotes

“It is clear that significance inheres in the written form of language as much on account of the properties of physical materials as throguh a text’s linguistic content.” (57).

“In the world and of it, written language materializes thought into form and form into history, culture, and record” (74) both these from “The Art of the Written Image”

“The forms in which language occurs adherese more or less to norms which enable messages to be recognized” (87) “Hypergraphy” – connections with genre theory?

“The word is made flesh not as a voice, not as a score, an image, an icon, or an event but as a text whose visual properties and idiosyncracies enact themselves for the eye, upon the page.” (109) from “The Interior Eye”

“My interest is in extending the communicative potential of writing, not in eliminating or negating it” (146) from “Letterpress Language” – use the constraints of typography, letterpress, structure of the page

The materiality of signification: how “material substrates and visual/typographic/written (and, by extension, verbal) styles encode history, identity, and cultural value at the primary level of the mark/letter/physical support )and in non-written form, the qualities of voice, tone, tenor, rhythm, inflection, etc.)” from “Language as Information: Intimations of Immateriality”

Notable Notes

writing as both noun and verb, process and performance, visual and verbal, text and the work of the hand, individual and social

programming language as rules, not codes – describe, not embody language

writing as a form, image of the self

linked to Morris, Blake – stretches the bounds of the book

Kaufer and Butler, Rhetoric and the Arts of Design

Kaufer, David S. and Brian S. Butler. Rhetoric and the Arts of Design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996.

Instead of trying to squeeze itself in the confines of an analytical discipline, rhetoric should deliberately define itself as a design art, belonging to the family of production-driven design arts including architecture, engineering, programming, and graphics. Kaufer and Butler’s book traces two streams of inquiry: first, their claim that written argument – words in themselves – are original design and second, their explanation of their theory and argument of rhetoric as design. All design knowledge from the family of design arts has three characteristics: it is modular, it is cohesive (can relate in a working whole), and is problem-focused. They use the Lincoln/Douglas debates as their extended example to expalin the parts of their Architecture of Rhetorical Design. At the end of the book, they argue for the tight connection between criticism and production as the foundation for rhetorical design theory, a rhetorical education that includes multimedia and multigenre writing and production, and finally, challenge the reader to create a simpler architecture for rhetoric as a design art.

Quotable Quotes

“The powerful rhetors of today and tomorrow know words, but they also know film, photography, typography, music, sound, animation, and video production” (297).

Rhetoricians “design the social world around them and bring it to the here and now” – they are the architects of the social world, draw on Burke. It’s not all about persuasion

“A design art is a production process that involves the interdependent development of goals and a material artifact, relying on knowledge about the nature of the artifact to be produced” ( 32).

“Rhetoric is based on a flexibility in the representation of complex social situations, a flexibility required if the individuals in the situation are ever to accomplish practical goals” (23).

Definitions of rhetoric: “the control of events for an audience” and “the strategic organization and communication of a speaker’s version of events within a situation in order to affect the here and now of audience decision making” (12).

“By insisting that rhetoric be treated as design, we are also insisting that the appropriate way to approach rhetoric is to seek the minimal and general in an art of overwhelming complexity” (11)

Notable Notes

good rhetoric is both predictable and adaptive

production without criticism is “hollow and uninformed,” the opposite is “armchair and wishful” (298).

rhetorical design includes

  • plans – how the speaker builds and understands his world, predictiveness
  • tactics – how the speaker will deal with disruptions of their vision, anticipate different perspectives, responsiveness
  • events – moment-by-moment interaction with the audience, language performatives (anecdotes, wit, irnoy, sayings, regionalizing, promises, threats), identifying with the audience – humanness

Knowledge and Goals → Rhetoric Strategies and Rhetorical Design Space (Plans, Tactics, Events) → Presentation Actions (graphic on page 72).

their book focuses just on words – to see how just words can do on their own as design

productive, not practical, art

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