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.

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)


December 31, 2011

Dobrin, Introduction: Finding Space for the Composition Practicum

Dobrin, Sidney. “Introduction: Finding Space for the Composition Practicum.” In Don’t Call It That: The Composition Practicum. Ed. Dobrin. Urbana: NCTE, 2005. 1-34.

This introduction sets out the scope of the author’s edited collection, which explores the debates surrounding the graduate (sometimes undergraduate) composition practicum: the place of theory in the course, its curriculum, its aims, its ramifications for institutional politics, and its place in disciplinary research, scholarship, and identity.

Dobrin claims that the composition practicum is not merely about training teachers to teach composition or professionalizing those teachers; rather, what the composition practicum course does is enculturate those students “into the cultural ideologies of composition.” This fact, Dobrin claims, makes “the practicum one of the most powerful and important spaces of occupation in composition studies.” (21). He argues that composition studies should be more aware of the power the practicum has on the field as a whole.

Dobrin argues that the debates about the composition practicum are political in nature and centered on the perpetual divide and debate of theory/practice, and therefore the questions raised by the composition practicum are shared with the questions inherent in composition studies and writing program administration scholarship. Dobrin argues that the composition practicum is a particularly important site for the field to study, as it is where the identity of the discipline is often defined for the next generation of scholars; thus, the composition practicum is where the field’s “cultural capital” is created and perpetuated.

Dobrin surveys the history of the composition practicum at American universities since the turn of the 20th century, noting that not much has changed in regards to the incorporation of both theory and practice in the course and the political arguments that surround the course.


“The practicum functions as a primary purveyor of composition’s cultural capital.” (6)

“Let’s face it, as a device through which ideologies are reinforced and programmatic cultures are created and maintained, the practicum course is a powerful tool not only for guiding the ways new teachers learn to think about their teaching, but also for controlling how and in what ways the very discipline of composition studies is perpetuated. The cultural capital of composition studies is maintained and immortalized by way of the practicum.” (4)

“Practica give shape and formula to the identity of programs. This notion of program identity is important because it carries cultural capital through to first-year students and what it means “to write.”” (26)


focuses on the graduate (TA) composition practicum course, which is often more than day-to-day advice and “how-to” practical help, serving instead as an introduction to composition theories and histories

central issue: legitimization (is the practicum course rigorous enough? Is practice critical enough? should the practicum course be given for credit?)

a challenge of the course: it is often the only course graduate student take in composition theory, history, or practice. It has a lot of ground to cover.

Some problems Dobrin addresses:

Much of the literature about teacher preparation and the practicum is grounded in the local – both because, perhaps, there is little other context, and also because the theory of what we do is so grounded in the relationships and experiences we have – it is practical (30)

1. the composition practicum is seen as an introduction to the field, but the field is not all about teaching and also not all about FYC (22)

2. requiring all English grad students to take a practicum reinforces the subordinate position of composition (as something students must do and be “trained” to do instead of what they want to do) (22)

3. A WPA’s approach in her program can often be traced back to the single composition practicum course that she took as a graduate student (27) – exponential influence

4. confusion of teacher/student identity: are those in the practicum teachers or students?

3. the composition practicum is an argument, forwarding a particular vision of professionalization and the field (through theories, methods, vocabulary) and is also a mechanism for “policing,” control and enculturation (24-25)

Guerra/Bawarshi’s essay in this collection looks at shifts between different WPAs in the same program: “cult of personality”

Create a free website or blog at