Revolution Lullabye

May 28, 2009

Johnson-Eilola and Sebler, Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart A. Selber. “Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage.” Computers and Composition 24 (2007): 375-403.

Johnson-Eilola and Selber argue for a problem-solving view of writing as assemblage rather than a performance and product-oriented understanding of composing. They place the concept of assemblage in conversation with discussions of plagiarism and originality, both which would undervalue and even criminalize assemblage (remix, collage) writing. They show how practices of assemblage are common in other fields and contexts, like website design, architecture, blogging, and institutional and workplace writing. Writing as assemblage, a postmodern understanding of creativity, limits the ethical and legal panic over plagiarism and the sloppy, unnecessary paraphrasing and allows students to use all available resources (and acknowledge those sources) to make their argument and solve problems.

Quotable Quotes

“If we take away that hierarchy, we remove the impulse for students to lie about it. If a piece of the assemblage is valued primarily for its function rather than its place in a hierarcy, students are no longer pushed so hard to hide the citations for their sources” (400). – students are afraid to have too much of their text in quotes or cited because then it doesn’t look like their original thought is in there (even though they selected, assembled.)

“By untangling the academic function from the legal function [of citation and paraphrase], we open up assemblages and remixes to examination in terms of our academic and pedagogical goals” (399).

“What if we put the emphasis on problem-solving, originality be damned?” (380).

“creating assemblages requires the same rhetorical sophistication as any text” (391).

Notable Notes

Christopher Alexander pattern language – these design patterns are “an ongoing conversation between local and global” and “The possible rhetorical moves of a pattern language are a reservoir, drawn on by an architect to address problems in specific contexts, remixed into an assemblage. The assemblage works at the intersection of principle and concrete.” (395).

selection, choice, local context

change in assessment practices to question whether the assemblage solves problems (instead of the Romantic understanding of single original author)

students are taught this hierarchy – others’ work and words can only be used as support and are secondary to their own original thoughts

21st century remix culture is all around us


March 9, 2009

Johnson-Eilola, The Database and the Essay

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. “The Database and the Essay.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 199-235.

Drawing on scholarship and federal cases about intellectual property law and theories of writing as symbolic-analytic work and writing as articulation, Johnson-Eilola argues that composition teachers should begin valuing the processes of selection and connection (as done in blogging, database construction, MOOs, and search engine design) as writing, writing to discuss, analyze, and do in their classrooms. Writing, he argues, cannot be divorced from the economic sphere and must understand all information as value- and choice-laden. Two forces have combined to spark this change that composition teachers must understand and act upon: first, the postmodern move to recognize that there is no such thing as the solitary author, since all writing is social work; and second, that intellectual property law is increasingly seeing texts not as coherent wholes but rather chunks of marketable, commodified information and material. His assignments ask students to blog and look critically at how search engines organize and display information.

Quotable Quotes

Looking at “the breakdown of ‘text’ as a coherent and privileged object” (205)

Shift “away from thinking of intellectual property as a ‘work’ – as a relatively extended, coherent whole – and toward thinking of it as marketable chunks” (209).

“This new notion of writing as at least partly – perhaps primarily – about valuing connection will let us argue to our students that information is not neutral. Collection is a social and political act; there are not mere disembodied facts, but choices” (212).

Notable Notes

see selection and connection as writing – draw on articulation theory for this.

we need to begin connecting writing and architecture theories

postmodern, commodity, capitalist,

the business of information

controlling linking on webpages, database structure

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

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