Revolution Lullabye

January 31, 2013

Lang and Baehr, Data Mining

Lang, Susan and Craig Baehr. “Data Mining: A Hybrid Methodology for Complex and Dynamic Research.” College Composition and Communication 64.1 (September 2012): 172-194.

Lang and Baehr argue that data mining is a useful research methodology for researchers and administrators in composition and rhetoric because of its inductive nature and its ability to organize and use large sets of data.  Their article defines data mining, explains how current computer technologies make data mining an efficient and useful research tool, describes the process of data mining, gives an example of it in practice (from their work at Texas Tech), and names the limitation of the methodology.  They offer data mining as a tool for researchers to engage in a RAD research agenda, as called for by Richard Haswell and Chris Anson.  They believe that in this age of increased demand for accountability, data mining can help teachers and administrators develop better assessment techniques and argue for their programs.

Notable Notes

data mining allows for categorization, clustering, and the emergence of associations and patterns (178-179).

distinction: data mining is more inductive – the data comes first (not the hypothesis), and the findings emerge (179).

application of data mining to Chris Anson’s taxonomy of six types of research (research categories) (181-184).

example: why do students earn DFW in first-year writing? What are the factors? Data mining study at Texas Tech

limitations: the complexity and scope of the data; longitudinal studies are necessary to increase validity; it cannot completely substitute for other kinds of research methodology; quantitative methods aren’t as accepted in the field (190-191).

data mining process: (185-186)

  1. identify the problem(s)
  2. select raw source of data
  3. decide what measures or criteria to apply to the data
  4. develop a formal procedure (a repeatable process) for sifting through the data
  5. interpret the results

Quotable Quotes

“Data mining is the iterative process of systematically interpreting, organizing, and making meaning from data sources” (191).

“The increasingly accoutnability-focused climate of higher education demands that we at least begin to explore the use of data-mining technologies” (184).

“Data and text mining extend these activities beyond what is possible for us to do as individuals without the assistance of computer technology, as large amounts of numeric or textual data can be examined for various types of relationships, including classes, clusters, associations, and patterns” (178).


June 11, 2009

Wysocki, The Multiple Media of Texts

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media.” In What Writing Does and How It Does It. Eds. Bazerman and Prior. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 123-161.

Wysocki’s chapter addresses students and has three main parts: first, she lays out her basic argument for the visual, rhetorical nature of all texts, printed and onscreen; second, she introduces elements of visual texts that students can identify (typography, shapes, pictures, video, animation, and sound) and gives an outline about how a student might analyze a visual text; and third, she uses extended examples of visual textual analyses to argue that composing with images and visual features shouldn’t just anticipate and provide for easy audience reading. Rather, the visual nature and elements of onscreen and paper texts should be used rhetorically and deliberately to make points and challenge readers to consider the cultural and historical frameworks through which they read and interpret texts.

Quotable Quotes

move from making user-friendly, predictable texts that serve the audience’s purpose to “making visual and interactive compositions that ask audiences to question, first, how they came to have their expectations, and, then, the limitations and constraints of those expectations” (157).

learning to compose visually is “learning to observe well” (159).

Notable Notes

analysis: identify elements, name their relationships, and then expand to consider how those relationships and element connect to larger contexts and arguements

basic points: 1. all texts are visual in nature 2. a text’s visual nature gives a clue to its genre 3. a text’s visual components perform important rhetorical and persuasive work 4. cultural attitudes to visual elements change over time 5. choices in visual presentation have to be seen through cultural frameworks 6. composing a text means making deliberate choices for how to shape the page or screen to direct the audience. (123-126)

move from analyzing what’s on the page or screen to asking how that elicts readers’ responses, the cultural frames through which readers respond, why some texts are more accessible than others, the politics and economics of text production and circulation – who we are and who we will become

March 18, 2009

Kirschenbaum, The Word as Image in an Age of Digital Reproduction

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. “The Word as Image in an Age of Digital Reproduction.” In Eloquent Images. Eds. Hocks and Kendrick. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 137-156.

Kirschenbaum, writing from the perspective of applied humanities computing, contests the argument that digital media has allowed texts and images to be easily integrated with each other. He looks at the history of printing and how images are being made searchable through computer algorithms to show that texts and images are still treated differently in digital media because they have different material constraints and limitations. Some include the long upload time for images versus text and how images are still invisible (in many ways) and dense for search engines to navigate, explore, and use effectively. Mark-up language (SGML, XML) has helped some, but these tags force the designer to transform the image into formal elements and named categories. He shows that even applications like Flash (vector applications) do not truly integrate word and image into a usable form because they are designed from scratch, are time-consuming, and again, invisible to searching engines.

Quotable Quotes

“The notion that digital texts and images are infinitely fluid and malleable is an aesthetic conceit divorced from technical practice” (154).

“There are significant ontological continuities with analog media that are not adequately accounted for by casual assertions about the blurred boundaries between word and image” (153).

“The lesson in all this is that the material truths of digital reproduction exist in constant tension wiht the Web’s siren song of the visual” (140)

Notable Notes

images are costly problems in printed texts; they are often separated from the text (see Tufte for an exception) and this historic separation of text and image began in the days of the movable type press – images were etched, engraved, or photos that were designed separate from the text.

material limitations of printing led to design choices that last after the limitations end (Macintosh fonts as an example, pixelated)

applied humanities computing – digitizing archives, William Blake’s poetry and designs, art work

data becomes textual, not graphical (with mark-up language) (150)

uses his Flash/vector example of Lucid Mapping

If the text isn’t searchable, how interactive is it?

the material constraints of computing

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

March 8, 2009

Sirc, Box-Logic

Sirc, Geoffrey. “Box-Logic.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 111-146.

Instead of teaching linear texts in our classrooms, composition teachers should encourage an aesthetic sense in their students, asking them to see writing as collection, arrangement, and juxtaposition of elements, much like a curator or artist composes. Sirc relies on the box theories and practices of Marcel Duchamp Joseph Cornell, Walter Benjamin, and George Maciunas to construct an argument about the validity of such an experimental method in composition classrooms, highlighting how it reflects the non-linear, non-conclusive writing students do outside the colldge classroom. His assignments draw on technologies from pen and paper to HTML web pages and have students create juxtapositions, research boxes, and arcades projects.

Quotable Quotes

We need to ask “What is essential to composition? What are the inescapable, minimal institutional constraints that must be considered?” (126)

“Mainstream writing instruction too often prefers to put students inot contact zones of heightened cultural import. BUt strong art, we seem can be created out of a collection of well-chosen interesting bits of the everyday.” (122)

“If we (finally) journey away from the linear norm of essayist prose, which the texts of the everyday world implore us to do, where do we go, especially in a composition classroom? What sorts of formal and material concerns guide a newly-mediated pedagogical practice?” (114)

“text as box=author as collecter” (117)

“My projects above are all attempts to use technology to infuse contemporary composition instruction with a spirit of the neo-avant-garde. The box-theorists provide a way to think about composition as an interactive amalgram, mixing video, graphic, and audio with the verbal.” (146).

Notable Notes

arrangement, no clear conclusions, just suggestions

stylistic device of the caesura (123)

highlights two activities in the classroom: annotation and note-taking, search strategies

it seems to hearken back to the individual spirit of expressionism, early process movement

students as designers, artists who experiment with blank boxes, pages, and screens to create meanings, free to capture moods, an element of play

February 22, 2009

Foucault, What Is an Author

Foucault, Michel. From “What Is an Author?” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP,  2000. 233-246.


Foucault shifts attention from the individual author to examining the features of texts that have authors, prioritizing discourse, language itself, instead of authors or even readers. He explains that the role of the author isn’t merely descriptive; it performs an act, an authoring act in society. Four features of the author-function are as follows: it is connected to institutional and societal issues of legal property and appropriation; it is not the same for all discourses and in all cultures and time periods; it is defined through a complex process of assigning and constructing an author by searching for coherence in style, argument, and quality over many texts; and it allows for the plurality of egos, a separation of the author, narrator, and other subjects in the text. Foucault then moves to describe a particular kind of author who arose in the nineteenth century, citing Marx and Freud as examples. They are authors of entire discourses, who produced not only their own texts but a possibility for the production of others, texts that always return to the founding discourse, never debunking it. He distinguishes between a founding act of science and a founding act of discourse. Foucault then suggests what work must be done next: creating a typology of discourse through analyzing the relationships of between an author and a text and investigating the role of subjects and authors as functions of discourse, not existing outside of it.


Quotable Quotes


Marx, Freud:  “They cleared a space for the introduction of elements other than their own, which, nevertheless, remain within the field of discourse they initiated” (241).


“The initiation of a discourse practice is heterogeneous to its ulterior transformations” It “overshadows and is necessarily detached from its later developments and transformations” (242).


“The subject (and its substitutes) must be stripped of its creative role  and analysed as a complex and variable function of discourse.” (245)


“We can say in our culture, the name of an author is a variable that accompanies only certain texts to the exclusion of others: a private letter may have a signatory, but it does not have an author; a contract can have an underwriter, but not an author; and, similarily,  an anonymous poster attached to a wall may have a writer, but he cannot be an author. In this sense, the function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses in society” (235).


Notable Notes


Shifts the focus from author to text, from discourse and its functions.


Labor-intensive process of assigning an author to a body of work. We believe that the work of an author must be homogenous: there must be unity in its quality, arguments, style, historical place and context. Contradictions must be solved – there can’t be any inherent complications unless they can be explained away.


The name of an author functions as a classification, creates relationships between texts and gives text and discourse a sort of permanence in society  (235)


February 19, 2009

Barthes, The Death of the Author

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP Ltd., 2000. 125-130.

Barthes argues that it is not the author who speaks in a text, but rather, language itself. The concept of a single (male) author is one rooted in Enlightenment individualism, an idea so powerful that it reduced the text to an explanation and an understanding of the author. Instead, Barthes claims, an author and a text are born simultaneously (126); the former does not give birth to the latter, for the act of writing is not an act of reporting ideas but, rather, a performative act. Writing and texts do not have single, solitary lines of understanding: they are multivoiced and understanding them can only be a process of disentangling the lines, not completely deciphering them or figuring them out (129). The work of assigning meaning to a text, of compiling the voices into some sort of understandable whole, does not belong to the author/writer. It is the duty of the reader. Barthes calls for “the birth of the reader” at the expense of the Author. (130).

Quotable Quotes

“The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (130).

“A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (129) author-reader

“Everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered” (129)

“Life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred” (128).

A text is a “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (128)

“Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin…Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing” (125).

“The voice loses its origin, the author enters his own death, writing begins” (125).

Notable Notes

not assigning an ultimate final meaning to a text is to refuse God (and reason, science, and law) – very postmodern (129)

assigning an author limits a text, closes it, allows it to be criticized as an object

January 12, 2009

Lupton, Thinking with Type

Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.

This book, written for both designers and students, gives a broad overview of the histories and theories of typography and broader text design along with specific techniques on how to analyze and create type, text, and entire documents. The book is divided into three major sections – letter, text, and grid – and each section begins with a historical essay followed by several practical examples of the design elements discussed. Lupton focuses particularily on how typography has answered the typographic and layout design challenges of digital media. Design, she argues, has now expanded beyond the printed page, as designers must create transmedia designs, designs that move from web pages to captions to pull quotes to logotypes to album covers. Designers, Lupton also argues, must attend to the needs of the audience, and today, the reader has become the user, whose time and attention is a valuable commodity which must be accomodated in the design of letters, text, and grids.

Quotable Quotes

Typography is…

“a tool for doing things with: shaping content, giving language a physical body, enabling the social flow of messages” (8)

“what language looks like” (1)

“an interface to the alphabet” (75)

“by and large, an art of framing, a form designed to melt away as it yields itself to content” (115)


“is as much an act of spacing as an act of marking” (67) Importance of white space

“has become a ‘transmedia’ enterprise, as authors and producers create worlds of characters, places, situations, and interactions that can appear across a variety of products” (75)

“is the art of situations” (193) Designers respond to a need, a problem.

“The history of typography is marked by the increasingly sophisticated use of space…Space has become more liquid than concrete, and typography has evolved from a stable body of objects to a flexible system of attributes” (68).

Users instead of readers: “searching and finding, scanning and mining” (76).

Notable Notes

Shift in cultural values throughout typographic history: humanist in the Renaissance and 15th century Italy (looked like handwriting), Enlightenment (fluid, fancy, sharp, clean, precise, use of the grid), Industrialization (monster fonts with big, bold faces made from wood-cut type), Arts and Crafts movement (pure, round, balanced, geometric shapes), Post WWII (mathematical, universal language, Swiss grid design), digital revolution (low resolution, bit-map pixel fonts), late 20th century (play with variation with computer capabilities.)

Type family includes regular, bold, italic, bold italic, small caps, lining numerals, non-lining numerals

databases create non-linear structures, space instead of sequence (69)

Barthes, Derrida, Ong, Raskin, Lunenfeld

Style sheets allow designers to think globally about the design of the entire structure instead of just the present page (74).

The computer has saved text – a “digital phoenix” (Lunenfeld quote – 76) because it emphasizes the printed word in a way TV and film do not.

Grids are about control, establishing systems for organizing content. Even the computer screen, which has so many curves and spontaneous elements, is based fundamentally on grids. This was emphasized with HTML tables, and Flash moves away a little bit from that, though it is based on an x and y grid. (113, 132)

for elegant design, do not have more than three visual cues for each level of hierarchy: symbols (A, B, C), indents, line breaks, font change (keep x-height the same), alignment change, bold, italic, color change, underline, small caps

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