Revolution Lullabye

January 10, 2013

Newcomb, Sustainability as a Design Principle for Composition

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.

Notable Notes

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

Quotable Quotes

“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).

January 3, 2013

Ryan, Thinking Ecologically

Ryan, Katherine J. “Thinking Ecologically: Rhetorical Ecological Feminist Agency and Writing Program Administration.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 74-94.

Ryan argues against the “rootlessness” mentality of academics and, in contrast, defines a counter-position, rhetorical ecological feminist agency, and explains how it can help WPAs theorize their work.  Rhetorical ecological feminist agency is grounded and takes into consideration the various relationships and patterns that consistute a place.  Ryan describes how rhetorical ecological feminist agency could have helped her negotiate a new first-year writing placement procedure at her new institution, how it can help connect often-transplanted new WPAs to the people and places at their new home institution, and how she used rhetorical ecological feminist agency to redesign the first-year writing program at her Montana institution so that it helped both students at teachers investigate sustainability and the ecological issues of the place they lived in.

Notable Notes

draws on various feminist and environmental/ecological theorists: Christopher Preston (Grounding Knowledge, how place helps create knowledge); Lorraine Code (Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Thinking, situated citizens concerned with the ethics and politics of interconnected relationships); Chris Cuomo (moral agency)

GenAdmin:Theorizing WPA Identities in the Twenty-First Century

Quotable Quotes

Definition: “In brief, a rhetorical ecological feminist agency is socially constructed, ecologically located and enacted, ethically responsible, rhetorically directed, and pragmatically oriented. It values experiential knowledge alongside disciplinary knowledge and recognizes that place and situation constitute knowledge” (80).

“A rhetorical ecological feminist agency calls for a shift in perspective from an autonomous and linear approach to implementing a task with a deadline to negotiating the best version of a policy implementation possible at the time, knowing it can be adapted over time as we learn more about the local implications of the policy” (85).

“A rhetorical ecological feminism helps WPAs value and build connections to a new life place and campus colleagues as well as link local to global issues” (87).

“If we ask students to interrogate the issues of place, ecology, and sustainability in their composition courses, so too can we ask ourselves, as WPAs, where these issues surface in writing program administration.” (92).

Flourishing: “A WPA ethics of flourishing includes three interrelated dimensions: committing to hope, enacting epistemic responsibility, and seeking eudaimonia or the ‘good life'” (79).

August 20, 2012

Micciche, For Slow Agency

Micciche, Laura R. “For Slow Agency.” WPA 35.1 (Fall/Winter 2011): 73-90.

Micciche argues “for slow agency” for writing program administrators. She notes that in WPA scholarship and conversations, the emphasis is often on “big agency” activities: creating programs, drafting and implementing assessments and curricula, managing the hiring and training processes of new teachers. These “big agency” activities take a lot of effort and a lot of time, and the pace is often frenzied.  Micciche draws on the principle of hypermiling to suggest that the pace of WPA work could be slowed down without sacrificing the eventual attainment of goals. She argues that reaching for collaborative action, which takes more time but involves more stakeholders in decisions, is a more sustainable and healthy approach to administrative work.

Micciche uses several examples from her own WPA work (crafting a new curriculum, implementing a new placement procedure for first-year writing) to show how slowing down and allowing space for reflection and discussion works better than fast, top-down administrative decisions. Micciche suggests that WPAs who employ slow agency do so by splitting large projects into mutliple phases and publically documenting the progress of each stage to higher administration, which adds to an environment of transparency. Micciche contends that by slowing down, by changing the pace, resources – especially human resources – are preserved and protected, one of the primary jobs of a writing program administrator.

Notable Notes

WPAs are evaluated on measurable progress – leads to burnout sometimes

discussion of Jim Berlin’s doorstop – the artifacts that surround us and how they embody our program’s history and philosophies

productive stillness = reflection, thinking, collaboration, discussion

don’t abuse your resources

how is the teacher evaluation committee not a progress narrative?

this idea that we must do the impossible easily and quickly

we are in a network of relationships when we do WPA work; there is no straight linear path to race in order to get where you need to be.

economics of speed/fast capitalism, speed as a commodity

suspended agency = practicing vulnerability (80)

organizational time is slow – remember that and use that. In the business world, managers break projects into phases

Quotable Quotes

“I contend here that agency can be figured in myriad ways, including the counter-intuitive view of agency as action deferred. Deferral is not necessarily a sign of powerlessness, inactivity, or dereliction of duty. On the contrary, it creates much-needed space for becoming still and getting places, allowing for regnerative returns” (74).

“Among other effects, this scholarship provides us with (sometimes uneven) progress narratives that situate our everyday actions, in all of their incomplete, compromised, and ambivalent glory, within broad historical context, suggesting that the long haul provides hope for the sustainability of WPA work.” (77) – about WPA narratives

“Indeed, ever-depleting resources of all kinds – physical spaces, support services, teachers, good health, funding, patience – are heavy on one’s mind when directing a writing program” (78) – need for pacing and preservation of resources

“hypermiling does not compromise one’s ability to get anywhere; it merely slows the pace of arrival. This slight shift in priorities – from fast to gradual arrival…” (78)

“The speed of getting things done, along with the enormity of tasks involved, creates ideologies and practices that disrespect and dehumanize programs and people.” (79)

“This view of administration permits us to depict writing programs as a swirl of actors, things, structures, economics, and forms of matter always interacting to create effects.” (80) – “recognizing relationality as central to endurance, resourcefulness, and sustainability.” (80-81)

“But we should empower ourselves to slow down sometimes, grant ourselves enough agency to defer action in cases for which we need to be in the moment rather than racing against moments or believing that every request or problem requires an immediate response.” (87).

May 25, 2011

Bizzell, Rhetorical Agendas

Bizzell, Patricia (Ed.). Rhetorical agendas: Political, ethical, spiritual (Proceedings of the 11th biennial conference of the Rhetoric Society of America, May 28-31, 2004, Austin Texas). 2006.

These essays were collected from the Rhetoric Society of America’s 2004 conference, which called for papers based on the theme Rhetorical Agendas: Political, Ethical, Spiritual, and the conference featured speakers who took up the theme to talk about a wide range of histories, theories, and pedagogies.

Bizzell argues against the postmodern idea that human beings have no agency, claiming that rhetoric is based on the idea that individual rhetors have choices (constrained, yes, but still have agency), and part of what scholars of rhetoric do is “investigate the conditions that produce rhetorical agency” (xi).

In the collection:

Faigley, Lester. “Rhetorics Fast and Slow.” 3-9.

Faigley distinguishes between “fast rhetoric,” the rhetoric that seems to define our information-saturated, fast-paced world, and “slow rhetoric,” a kind of rhetoric that encourages students and people to think deeply and consider problems from multiple points of view. He argues that developing pedagogies of “slow rhetoric” can better equip students to deal with and solve the complex problems of our world.

“That most of our problems are human-created is both a cause for optimism and depression. Many problems could be addressed if people choose to do so. Yet a sense of inevitability – that nothing can be done – pervades our culture. Fast rhetorics are manifestation of a culture that suffers from attention deficit disorder, a culture where things are quickly used and discarded, a culture where the abuse of the environment and gaping inequalities are ignored. As Jackie Royster puts it, we need better ways of being and better ways of doing. We need pedagogies that encourage students to develop a sense of place, a sense of stewardship, a sense of equity, and a sense of connectedness to the world around them. We need to make better arguments about the value of slow rhetoric and be more imaginative about creating spaces where slow rhetoric can be practiced. The fate of future generations will depend on how well the students we teach can use slow rhetoric” (9).

December 9, 2010

Thompson, Faculty at the Crossroads

Thompson, Karen. “Faculty at the Crossroads: Making the Part-Time Problem a Full-Time Focus.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000. 185-195.

Thompson describes some of the solutions she thinks would help solve the adjunct labor problem, drawing on the lessons learned in the UPS Teamsters strike: along with pro rata  compensation, she argues that adjunct faculty need to identify each other and become visible inside and outside the university, that full-time faculty need to join with adjunct faculty to argue for better working conditions, and that the problem needs to be explained to parents, taxpayers, and legislators so they can be in alliance with faculty (coalition building). Thompson contends that full-time faculty need to begin to acknowledge how universities are increasingly run through cost-driven management instead of in the best interests of faculty and students. She argues that it’s not only the overproduction of PhDs (a buyer’s market for universities) that is creating the adjunct labor problem: it is an erosion of tenure and full-time faculty lines, as universities are increasingly relying on part-time adjunct labor to teach their courses, as evidenced by the high demand for last-minute adjunct jobs.

Notes and Quotes

compares higher ed labor situation to UPS strike

“Economic problems need economic solutions.” (187).

part-timers who accept their situation: “Where do they get the idea this is an apprenticeship or the Peace Corps?” (189).

leading to the problem: increased administrative costs, which can happen with increasing reliance on low-pay adjunct wages.

full-time faculty need to use their seniority and power to work for adjuncts.

“visibility, unity, and persistence” (194) – the keys to success.

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