Revolution Lullabye

February 19, 2009

Horner, Terms of Work for Composition

Horner, Bruce. Terms of Work for Composition: A Materialist Critique. Albany: SUNY Press, 2000.

Horner uses a materialist lens to examine many of the debates in the field of composition and rhetoric, ranging from the purpose of service-learning courses to whether or not the field should professionalize to how we regard students and their writing, focusing his critique on six “key terms”: work, students, politics, academic, traditional, and writing. The volume is very circular (Horner announces in introduction that the reader can read through the chapters in any order they see fit), but each chapter (organized around one of the key terms) takes up the debates and Horner’s perspective in a slightly different way. Horner’s two main arguments throughout the text are calls to the field at large. First, he argues that the work done in composition is commodified (seen as a product that can be acquired and exchanged), and this commodification, which occurs at all levels, from the classroom to the university to the outside world, allows us to think of our work and the issues we deal with as abstractions rather than connected to material conditions. Second, that abstract view allows us to cede control of our work to faceless systems and institutions, like their effects are inevitable, rather than regarding and critiquing our decisions as conscious choices. Horner challenges the field to ground our scholarship, pedagogy, and service in the material, social, and historical conditions of the local places we work in.

Quotable Quotes

Intellectual work: “This subordiniation and subsumption of the work of teaching to the production of written texts constitute the playing out at the site of Composition the contradictions in more general conceptions of work. These contradictions are manifested in the distinction between intellectual and non-intellectual labor and in the commodification of intellectual labor” (2).

He argues for “representing students above all else workers, working on themselves, Composition, the academy, and the social generally” (35).

“Our distrust of work identified with these terms [academic and traditional], like our trust in work that appears ‘progressive,’ may ay more about the dematerialized ways in which we conceive of them than about the actual work accomplished under such rubrics” (103).

Notable Notes

see tradition not as a fixed body of knowledge but something dynamic, always negotiated, a foundation that is ever-changing and re-understanding knowledge

professionalization of composition can lead to an abandonment of the consideration of the material conditions of our work

there is a problem with the delegitimization of academic writing in the pursuit of all things “real world.” Is academia not in the real world? What does that say about our work?  There is materiality in all writing. Students’ academic writing is not inauthentic.

we always look at what students lack, look to their work to gives us clues to their being. Instead of seeing students as the result of pressures and factors being worked on, see them as workers.

our work as compositionists is tied up in our students’ work

extracurriculum – students outside the classroom work is “wholly unrecognized” and not considered intellectual work (117)

February 15, 2009

Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Toward an Investigation)” In Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971. 127-186.

The educational system is the primary way the ideology of the ruling class is reproduced and therefore inscribed in society. The schools are a ideological state apparatus, which though part of the private domain, are institutions of the State in as much as they silently indoctrinate (through ideology primarily, then repression) children, producing classes of workers who each ascribe to the philosophy and mentality that is necessary for them to reproduce the societal relations that the State, controlled by the dominant class, is dependent upon for existence. The ideology that pervades ideological state apparatuses like the educational system has a material existence: it must be a practice and be performed through rituals and apparatuses created and acted out by subjects to that ideology.

Quotable Quotes

Central thesis: “1. There is no practice except by and in an ideology; 2. There is no ideology except by the subject and for subjects” (170).

“No class can hold State power over a long period without at the same time exercising its hegemony over and in the State Ideological Apparatuses” (146).

“The ultimate condition of production is therefore the reproduction of the conditions of production” (127).

Notable Notes

ideology creates subjects out of individuals, exists eternally, so we are all subjects always

extends Marx’s critique to include the idea of ideological state apparatuses in addition to Marx’s repressive state apparatuses, which ensure the political existence of the state through repression primarily, ideology second.

Church used to be the dominant ISA – one of the most important consequences of the French Revolution and the Reformation was the destruction of the Church as a unified ISA for the State.

education system takes kids away during formative years, for 11+ years, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and spits them out at different times, have learned different roles according to their function in society: blue collar (exploited), white collar (those who exploit), leaders/elite (create ideologies, agents of repression). School is thought to be natural, neutral, beneficial, and indispensible. Education “steeps” them in ideology (133)

ISAs are the sites of class struggle, because they are so plural and diverse, full of contradictions, State power can’t lay down the law as easily here

January 16, 2009

Schuler and Namioka, Participatory Design

Schuler, Douglas and Aki Namioka. Participatory Design: Principles and Practices. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1993.

Participatory design, as opposed to expert and speciality-driven design, asks the eventual users of a product or system to assist in the design and development with it. This collection, which arose out of the 1990 Seattle Participatory Design conference (sponsored by the national nonprofit organization, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility), focuses primarily on software and system design, but the prinicples of participatory design can be applied across disciplines. Advocates for participatory design argue that it is a more democratic design process and results in higher quality products because more people are participating in the design, especially those who know the intimate context of how it will be used (the workers and users.) Drawbacks of participatory design are mainly logistical: it requires much more time to involve several people in the design process (not all are specialists or professionals, so they don’t even share the same language to talk about the design), it is sometimes difficult to locate appropriate users and find adequate motivation to get them to participate in the process, and it is difficult to keep track of (and continue to motivate) participants to assess the performance of the product or process as it is being used in the workplace. Participatory design theory developed first in Scandinavia and works well with the demographics of their workforce: highly educated, highly unionized, and ethnically and racially homogenous. When participatory design is used in the United States and other European countries, however, researchers and designers need to understand that the demographics of their particular workforces will impact the effectiveness of participatory design (what the participants will expect, what will motivate them.)

Quotable Quotes

“Leaving out the users isn’t just undemocratic – it has serious consequences for worker health, human rights, job satisfaction, and also for the work process and the bottom line” (4) Ellen Bravo “The Hazards of Leaving Out the Users”

“User involvment and iteration are generally acknowledged to be more critical to success in software design than adherence to conventional design paradigms” (xii).

“Participation Design (PD) represents a new approach towards computer systems design in which the people destined to use the system play a critical role in designing it.” (xi)

“Practice as the social construction of reality is a strong candidate for replacing the picture theory of reality. In short, practice is our everyday practical activity. It is the human form of life. It precedes subject-object relations. Through practice, we produce the world, both the world of objects and our knowledge about this world. Practice is both action and reflection. But practice is also a social activity; it is produced in cooperation with others. To share practice is also to share an understanding of the world with others. However, this production of the world and our understanding of it takes place in an already existing world. The world is also the product of former practice. Hence, as a part of practice, knowledge has to be understood socially – as producing or reproducing social processes and structures as well as being the product of them” (63) Pelle Ehn, “Scandinavian Design: On Participation and Skill”

“Central and abiding concern for direct and continuous interaction with those who are the ultimate arbiters of system adequacy; namely, those who will use the technology in their everyday lives and work” (vii)

Notable Notes

secretaries and computers, eyestrain

Expertise is valued as a resource, not an unchallenged authority (xii)

unions and participatory design

participatory design doesn’t mean workplace democracy, but it does mean a bigger chance of participating in decision making.

making products and systems integral to the workplace, not just dumped into it by people who don’t work there and understand the context

using ethnographic field methods to describe and understand before beginning the design process

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