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.
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
“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).