Revolution Lullabye

August 13, 2012

Dobrin, Ecology and Concepts of Technology

Dobrin, Sidney I. “Ecology and Concepts of Technology.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 175-198

This is a review of four recently published books:

Baron, Dennis. A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Blair, Kristine, Radhika Gajjalaand, and Christine Tulley. Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice: Communities, Pedagogies, and Social Action. Cresskill: Hampton Press, 2008. Print.

DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, Heidi A.McKee, and Richard (Dickie) Selfe, eds. Technological Ecologies and Sustainability. Computers and Composition Digital Press. 2009. http://ccdigitalpress.org/tes/

Selber, Stuart, ed. Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication. Colubmia: U of South Carolina P, 2010. Print.

 

In his WPA book review, Dobrin argues that the conversations in the field about writing (especially digital) technologies need to move past the idea of “writing technology as tool or apparatus” that can either improve or inhibit writing or writing instruction. Instead, Dobrin points to these four recently published books and collections to argue for technology as a concept and a way to do and think about writing, as inseparable from a larger local and global ecology. He emphasizes at several points in his book review that writing has always been and will always be inseparable from technology. He challenges scholars, administrators, and teachers to push the bounds of what they mean by ecology by considering (drawn from the books he reviews) the environmental impact of technology and e-waste, the spaces in which people write their lives outside of the classroom, the global human justice issues of writing and technology, and the gender bias in the computing languages and platforms we use to write.

Notable Notes

4 threads: ecology, cyberfeminism, rhetoric, history

need to understand the constraints and institutional limitations in the ecologies we write and work in

complex ecologies are fluctuating ones

importance of historical context for understanding how a writing ecology works – the technology doesn’t just appear out of a box

Quotable Quotes

“We have to acknowledge that the instituational limits, the environmental oppressions, and the human oppressions are themselves ecologically bound.” (184)

“The study of writing cannot be separated from the study of technology.” (195)

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November 9, 2010

Crow and O’Neill, Introduction: Cautionary Tales about Change

Crow, Angela and Peggy O’Neill. “Introduction: Cautionary Tales about Change.” In A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Eds. O’Neill, Crow, and Burton. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. 1-18.

This introduction provides an overview for some of the issues present in independent or stand-alone writing programs and departments. They argue that the move toward independent programs and departments allows the field the opportunity to define themselves as something other than different from literature. The authors, who along with Larry Burton have co-edited this edited collection, focus the book on the question, “What happens when rhet/comp separates from literature, forming two different departments?” They emphasize the importance of local context and histories in the formation and development of independent programs and departments, local situations that shape what the program or department looks like administratively, what kinds of programs it is responsible for, and how it is seen intellectually by itself and on campus. The chapters include descriptions of how individual independent writing programs were created and developed, relying on the case study and narrative to explain the challenges that the faculty and administrators of the stand-alone writing units faced. These local histories point to some of the issues and implications for the field to consider as writing faculty move into independent programs and departments, such as questions regarding tenure, staffing, and composition’s connection to service and teaching. The collected essays in show that, with independence, there is both loss and gain. The third section has scholars from the field comment on the implications for the discipline of independent writing programs and departments.

Quotes & Notes

“The creation of stand-alone writing units – whether programs or departments – provides us with an opportunity to define ourselves in new ways instead of against literature and literary scholarship. It is a chance to begin new and better academic traditions where we can enact what we value instead of spending our energy defending it” (9)

thinking of Latour – how the field is defined by how it is acting in each particular local context.

June 23, 2009

Anderson, Prescribing the Life of the Mind

Anderson, Charles W. Prescribing the Life of the Mind. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1993.

Anderson offers his critique of the contemporary American university curriculum and offers his vision of an alternative that would bring the disciplines together under the pursuit of practical reason. Influenced by Dewey, Anderson believes that a unifying force in the university – one that brings together the disciplines – can only be taught through and by the disciplines, and so it is the duty of the faculty to create a core curriculum that threads together the different areas of intellectual and practical inquiry in a way that students will find coherent and meaningful. The free elective system, marked by a core curriculum where students take a wide variety of courses that don’t necessarily speak to each other, puts the onus on the students to find the coherence when they don’t even have a sense of the map of the breadth of university knowledge. Practical reason is characterized by ongoing, purpose-driven inquiry, self-reflexive thinking and the application of judgment – of deciding that some things are valuable and some things are not.

Quotable Quotes

Practical reason: “the activity of examinign a pattern of practice, and criticizing it, analytically, reflectively, with an eye to its improvement. Practical reason is a matter of distinguishing excellence and error. It also implies mastery, the effort to do something as well as it can be done” (97).

“The aim is not to fit the individual to the disciplines but to organize the disciplines so as to develop the capabilities of the individual” (90) – how does this speak to Latour?

“If we are going to teach something greater, we are going to have to teach it through the disciplines” (88) – the disciplines are instruments toward a larger goal

Practical reason: “being acutely self-conscious about our ideas of the purpose of a human enterprise and about the practices we institute to achieve them.” (4)

Notable Notes

the core of Anderson’s curriculum: civilization (how did we come to think as we do?); science (a theoretical framework for scientific reasoning); the human situation (social sciences); the humanities (beauty, form and function, elegant design, subtle ends, cultivate judgment); and practical studies (applied fields – what do you do and why do you do it.) all meant to go deep, to find connections and meanings

practical reason as an organizing principle teaches judgment – it is complex, not simple relativism or inclusiveness

goal of American university education – traditionally open to all to cultivate practical reason necessary for democracy; the goal should be not an all-knowing individual but a particular kind of craftsman, worker who brings good practice to a field, who has a particular habit of mind

contemporary university: teaches only a certain kind of critical, detached, observant knowledge

tension between the public function of the university (to educate the public) and the private function (inquiry by academics)

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