Revolution Lullabye

June 19, 2009

Berlin and Vivion, Cultural Studies in the English Classroom

Berlin, James A. and Michael J. Vivion. Cultural Studies in the English Classroom. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992.

This collection aims to show those in English studies (composition and literature) how the cultural studies movement, begun in England through the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, has affected the teaching of writing and literature in American college classrooms. The book is divided into two sections. The first discusses cultural studies programs, how cultural studies has affected the large-scale programmatic work of English studies, especially that of composition. The second section explains specific cultural studies courses, pedagogies, and practices that have been developed in English studies. Cultural studies helped drive the “social turn” in composition, and it studies how social practices, imbedded with history, politics, ideology, and culture, have affected the formation of meaning and langauge. Cultural studies affected the study and practice of writing in a number of ways: it is based on a poststructural idea of multiple identities and subjectivities; it positions writing as a negotiation and a culturally-coded act; it treats all acts of language, private and public, as interested and affected by cultures and situations; and it sees writing as a meaning-making act of compliance or resistance to the cultural hegemony, not just as transcribing information or knowledge. Cultural studies, the editors claim, is not a content to teach in English studies but rather a method defined by a diversity of pedagogies and practices, but students and teachers who engage in cultural studies often critique culture and explore how meaning is made, understood, and distributed.

Quotable Quotes

cultural studies is not a content but a method “of making meaning and exploring how meaning is made.” (xiv)

Notable Notes

goal: critical readers and understand notion of subjectivity

Zebroski’s critique of the Syracuse Writing studios that privilege development (of teachers, students, writing ability) without connecting it to larger social and economic forces that drive, shape, or prevent that development. The Syracuse writing curriculum, he contends, forwards individual, a-cultural notions of writing that don’t critique the ends of particular kinds of writing instruction. He warns, though, that cultural studies cannot turn into another way to indoctrinate students, a throwback to the banking model. How students are positioned in the classroom – as producers or recievers of knowledge (93) – is of key importance

See Maxine Hairston’s critique of cultural studies in composition (in Composition in Four Keys)

Delores K. Schriner: explains the Northern Arizona University composition curriculum informed by cultural studies: “one person, many worlds” (98) – can’t simplify experiences into one group; Native American. Challenge of teaching the TAs and instructors how to implement this curriculum and why it’s important

Christine Farris “Giving Religion, Taking Gold” – talks about cultural studies in the context of disciplinary cultures. Too often WAC programs try to colonize other departments by enforcing our ideas of writing and inquiry on them. Need for more discussion, see other classrooms in other disciplines as specific cultural and interpretative communities

Linda Brodkey “Writing about Difference” UT Austin course that got so much flack; using law cases to talk about issues of difference, looking at the rhetoric and argument in these legal decisions

January 23, 2009

Weathers, “Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy”

Note: For my major exam in composition pedagogy, history, and administration, I am surveying some of the popular texts used by beginning instructors and TAs. One of them is The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, a collection that, over its four editions, has been edited by Gary Tate, Edward P.J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers. I reviewed the table of contents of all four editions and selected the essays and articles that were repeated across the editions. Only three – Weathers, Ohmann, and Lunsford/Ede – were in all three editions. I will read all the articles that appeared in 3 or 4 of the editions. The following essays appeared in the third edition:

Tate, Gary, Edward P.J. Corbett, and Nancy Myers, eds. The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1994.

Weathers, Winston. “Teaching Style: A Possible Anatomy.” 294-299.

Weathers frames his essay around asking how composition teachers can make the teaching of style relevant, viable, and credible for students. He advocates three complimentary approaches for teaching style. First, he argues for explaining to students how style, which can be described as “the art of choice and option” is what allows people to be better communicators by allowing them to express themselves as individuals. This theoretical argument for the importance of style underpins, Weathers hopes, the relevancy of style as a way to exercise freedom of expression in a democratic society. Second, Weathers points out that ideological arguments about why style is important don’t help students enact stylistic techniques in their own writing, so he argues that instructors need to spend practical, hands-on time in the classroom teaching their students how to recognize, imitate, use, and adapt stylistic techniques. Third, Weathers encourages teachers to make a practice of composing in front of their students, such as on the blackboard. This intimate experience gives students an inside view of how writing happens – a perspective they need but don’t often see.

Quotable Quotes

“Style is the proof of a human being’s individuality; that style is a writer’s revelation of himself; that through style, attitudes and values are communicated; that indeed our manner is part of our message” (294).

“Style has something to do with better communication, adding as it does a certain technicolor to otherwise black-and-white language” (294).

“Style, by its very nature, is the art of selection” (294).

“We are an amazing lot of piano players refusing to play the piano” (298) – about not composing in front of our students.

“Believe me, the teacher’s struggle amidst the chalk dust can become the student’s education” (299).

Notable Notes

no reference to social context in constructing style; style as part of a social culture, not just an individual expression

refers to Corbett in discussion of imitation

writing and composition as a practical art

January 10, 2009

Shedroff, Experience Design

Shedroff, Nathan. Experience Design 1. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Press, 2001.

Experience design seeks out the common elements that make “superior” experiences, those that are successful and memorable. Shedroff includes all experiences in his analysis, both online and off-line, and his goal is to define principles of good experiences so that they can be consciously reproduced. Experiences are contained by their boundaries and usually consist of three major phases: attraction, engagement, and conclusion. The principles Shedroff discovers by evaluating and analyzing superior experiences (those he deems superior) connect to all three of those phases and include attributes like consistency, usability, interactivity, feedback, control, creativity, adaptivity, and community and identity creation. These types of good experiences have developed cognitive models, which is a structure based on how the designer predicts how the audience might understand the information, find meaning in it, and remember it. Shedroff also argues that good design is derived from insight, which is created by thoughtful, contextual structured information, developed along a continuum of information, stretching from pure data (which has no context), to context-driven, organized information, to generalized knowledge, to personalized, non-transmittable wisdom.

Quotable Quotes

“The elements that contribute to superior experiences are knowable and reproducible, which can make them designable” (2).

“[Seduction] has always been a part of design” (8)

“Information is really data transformed into something more valuable by building context around it so that it becomes understandable” (34) and “Information is data put in context with thought given to its organization and presentation” (42).

“The path to wisdom is not even open until we approach understanding with an openness and tolerance for ambiguity” (54).

“The most important aspect of any design is how it is understood in the minds of the audience” (cognitive model) (60).

Notable Notes

Experiences must “compete for the attention of the audience and partcipants” – novelty isn’t enough to keep a person interested for long. Compare with Lanham The Economy of Attention. (4) “Successful digital media are those that offer experiences unique to their medium and complete with traditional media in usefulness and satisfaction” (4)

Look at experiences throughout history to inform the design of present and future things (23)

Important experiences include birth, death, and the takeaway moments – those important experiences that you take away with you as you die as your lasting memories of Earth (rarely have anything to do with modern digital technology)

Information overload is really information anxiety – there is too much information out there as just data, no context or insight to put it into perspective or communication with others (34)

Ways to organize data (only 7) – magnitude, time, numbers, alphabet, category, location, randomness. Many presentation possibilities for the same data (example of the periodic table of the elements.) (66)

There is a need for multiplicity for different learning styles, redundancy, different levels of understanding and meaning (example of Vietnam memorial in DC), navigation routes.

Clear navigation and cognitive models are key in design.

Important design considerations: consistency, usability (learnability and functionality), design must create meaning, interactivity (audience are participants), feedback (audiences know that their participation matters), control (audience has control over experience – or thinks they do), creativity (people feel valuable, satisfied when asked to be creative), productivity (usefulness), adaptivity (customized, personalized), community membership, authentic identity formation, storytelling, narrative, perspective and point-of-view.

Sensorial design (276) – smell, taste, touch, sound, sight

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