Reading Notes Feb. 24

The library as a search engine. The image is from a website devoted to library displays.

The library as a search engine. The image is from a website devoted to library displays.

Joyce, Michael. Othermindedness : The Emergence Of Network Culture / Michael Joyce. n.p.: Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, c2000., 2000. Old Dominion University’s Catalog. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

Fourth Chapter: The Lingering Errantness of Place, or, Library as Library”

The fourth chapter of Michael Joyce’s Othermindedness is an interesting look at the place or nature of the library in the digital age. In the digital age, it seems that the place of the library and the digital library or archive are at odds, but Joyce argues that the two types of libraries are complementary. he says, he physical collection must lead us into the electronic collection and the electronic collection must lead us to the physical” (78). he characterizes the rise of electric archives as a “caesura,” a gap, that both allows us to reflect on where we are and exposes a moment of change that seems to offer no solid path to follow. In this gap, Joyce argues, a new mind emerges. He argues that error and wander in navigating the library and archive in the gap provide evidence to the linking the old library to the new library, of the old mind to the new. What is collectable is no longer clear, as hypertextuality offers constant change of text and exposes the way in which some texts in the library are privileged as worthy of being saved. Mistakes or errors in understanding and navigating the collection “tells us something of who we are and who others expect us to be” (73). “Gritty searches” which are quick and numerous, replace more cautious searches, and suggest that we are losing clarity of thought or mind, but in fact they signal “that the particularity of an evolving planet and its creatures are gritty” (74). Megatores are evidence of the way in way in which the collection needs both the local and the digital to be an effective collection for the new mind. Though it is appealing, the concrete megastore cannot be everything to everyone. It is limited in it’s content and does not contain enough local contextualized knowledge. Digital archives can include more content than the megastore, and local libraries often contain localized content. In the digital age, the library must move out into the world, while the library must take the world in (78).

The Librarian and The Digital Archive

I did a quick search to find a tutorial walking researchers through the use of digital archives. I found this video that is an introduction to searching Alaska’s digital archives. What struck me about the video is that at first the librarian seems to be primarily a tour guide giving an overview of the landscape of the database. I did a quick search to find a tutorial walking researchers through the use of digital archives. I found this video that is an introduction to searching Alaska’s digital archives. What struck me about the video is that at first the librarian seems to be primarily a tour guide giving an overview of the landscape of the database. That’s a nice human touch, but what else is the librarian doing here? Librarians had to compile this data, and in so doing, the decided what was important to include in a database containing artifacts from Alaskan history. In so doing, the librarian decides who Alaskans are and what Alaska is. Omissions from the database reveal something about the librarian and his or her values and understanding of Alaska. When do omissions become omissions? Joyce suggests that “our mistaking tells us something of who we are and who others expect us to be” (73). I gather from this that an omission becomes an omission when it is identified as such by a user.

Fifth Chapter: “Beyond Next Before You Once Again: Repossessing and Renewing Electronic Culture”

The fifth chapter of the text focuses on the nature of digital writing and intertextuality. The text is a very literary exercise in intersexuality that incorporates a number of voices reflecting on the nature of digital text. The central themes seems to be the conflict between those who privilege the printed text and those who believe the digital text to be part of our mental evolution and passing into the future of human knowledge and community. Joyce suggests that what digital text offers us is intertexuality, and therefore  a networked learning that brings about othermindedness (83), harkening back to that new mind brought about by the caesura that Joyce mentions in the fourth chapter. Invoking the body an natural elements like wood, air, water, and light, Joyce weaves a text that celebrates intertexulity. He explains that those who privilege printed paper texts distrust community and the future, and even the eye, and claim that hypertext is not natural. By invoking natural elements to explore the weaving in of of hyertext, and the creation of communities, Joyce crafts a very effective counter-argument against the idea that hypertext is the opposite of natural. In fact, the chapter seem to suggest that hypertext may be even more natural that an unevolving printed text.

Question: Why does the digital archive or collection need the human element of the librarian? What does the librarian bring that the digital collection cannot do without?

I was fascinated by the idea that the library or archive needs the complementary node of the librarian in the archival network. Joyce says that, “The mind of the electronic age must move out into the world,” and that “The new librarian, the sacred reader, takes the world into a real place that is neither a mythic universal library, nor, for that matter, merely a digital one” (78). Reflecting back on Spinuzzi’s theory of genre tracing, it seems that perhaps what the librarian can bring to the collection is a user-centered focus and understanding; however, recognizing the ways in which user-centered often ignores the need of the user, I started thinking about whether the collection-librarian-researcher dynamic is truly user-centered or whether the user attempts to be a hero. It seems to me, though, that the librarian, as Joyce describes, is a helper in a search rather than one who knows the answers. This is made evident when Joyce suggests that there are no answers to librarians questions about the archive except for “the successive choices, the errors and losses, of our own human community” (72). The focus on error and wander stands in stark contrast to user-centered design’s heroic self-imaging. The recognition that “meanings are not so much published as placed, continually embodied in human community” (75) suggests that the network of knowledge-archive-archivist-researcher cannot operate without any of the network nodes, particularly the researcher, who is the member who interprets the meaning of the collection and ultimately decided the success of error of the search. When is an omission an omission? It seems that Joyce would say that an omission becomes an omission when an expectation of the included item is revealed by the user of the archive. Joyce says, “our mistaking tells us something of who we are and who others expect us to be” (73).

Joyce, Michael. “Hypertext and Hypermedia.”
Of Two Minds : Hypertext Pedagogy And Poetics. n.p.: Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, c1995., 1995. Old Dominion University’s Catalog. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

This text is a very helpful overview of the nature of hypertext and hypermedia, the history of the definitions and the history of visions of hypertexts, an overview of controversies with hypertexts, and the current uses and the future of hypertext.Joyce says that hypertext operates as a series of nodes and links with nodes that contain content (such as text and sound) and links that connect the nodes (19). Joyce says that hypertext blurs the line between reader and writer, as the decisions that the writer makes shapes the form of the text.In this way, it seems that the reader has much more agency in the creation of meaning in the hypertext. The reader can access content in any order. Hypertext has been conceived as the human mind operating by association, as augmentation to the human mind, as interwingled “docuverse,” and as way to write the mind (22-23). Joyce also described the various ways that hypertexts has been envisioned by technological pioneers. Joyce also traces controversies in hypertext and the future of hypertext.

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Nostalgic angels: Rearticulating hypertext writing. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997.

First Chapter: Border Times

In the first chapter of Nostalgic angels, Johnson-Eilola explores the way in which the borders of writing are challenged by hypertext. Jonshon-Eilola explains that composition has framed some types of hypertexts as being out of bounds, but are in fact constructed in the context of social situations and may be capable of bringing about social change (6). If we ignore types of hypertexts or place them in hierarchies, and we do not recognize hypertext tools as types of text, Johnson-Eilola warns, composition may become further marginalized. To understand and accept texts not traditionally accepted as the type of writing composition is concerned with requires a broadening of the concept of composition (7). Johnson-Eilola described hypertext as social technology that constructs hypertext through invisible means (7). Johnson-Eilola explains that experimental fiction hypertext and in online documentation are similar in their foundations, but they differ greatly in potentials, epistemological, and uses (12). Jonhson-Eilola says that hypertext makes us like “angles with no wings who cannot find heaven and who get dizzy from walking (13). To understand the borders and the ways in which they discriminate against one another, Jonson-Eilola says we should consider them “both real and contingent” (16). Jonson-Eilola points put that the reader is vital in the construction of the meaning of the text (16), and that texts are products of political structures and activities and are not neutral (17). Jonson-Eilola says that understanding writing “as a complex activity involving not only writers but also readers, texts, societies, politics, economies, and technologies” involves “Exploring-and constructing-relations between these elements” (18).

Fifth Chapter: X-Ray Vision and Perpetual Motion

This chapter examines hypertext through the lenses of postmodernism and deconstruction. Jonhson-Eilola says that hypertext accumulates in time and space and can cause contradictory positions to “collapse into each other,” creating a “forum for diseent and criticism” (137). He contrasts narration to hypertext and says that hypertext makes writing and reading “less clearly distinct, less polarized” (137). In the chapter, Jonson-Eilola uses geometry and geography as ways to explore postmodern space. He aligns geometry with place and with current-traditional, product-oriented pedagogy, and he aligns space with geography. He claims that mapping of texts is necessary. The chapter focuses on describing concepts central to an understanding of space and subject of hypertext: the blurring between reader and writer and the decentering of the subject. Jonson-Eilola says that the “dispersion of subject and text” allows “students to find voices (multiple) and participate in discussions of value” (148).

Chapter 6: Angels in Rehab

The sixth chapter of the text focuses on the way in which students and instructors of composition can begin to socialize discourse. Johnson-Eilola focuses on pedagogical issues, including helping students map local against global, work collaboratively around a socila or political goal to “examine, decontruct, and reconstruct relationships of authority and power.”

Xanadau Space: Is Hypertext in 3-D all It’s Cracked up to be?

In this video, Ted Nelson discusses Xanadau space, a hyperttext program that he claims escapes the paper-like qualities that most hypertext documents attempt to replicate. One aspect of the program is that documents that connects to the document being examined “sworph” (swoop + morph) into place. He claims that the program allows endless overlap and overlap and intertextuality. The program is capable of containing and any mix of audio, video, and text and allows for side-by-side comparison of the text containing information from another source to the origin source. He calls this “literature as it should always have been” and says that “anything less is a compromise”. He says that we could have movies that “branch and branch and branch forever”. I was skeptical, I admit, because I wasn’t certain that the technology takes into account the reader as writer, but at the very end of the video, he says that the technology is “representing each user as a simultaneous reader and writer, which is what we really are”. But does the program do this more effectively than more traditional versions of hypertext? It allows for marginal notation, which is something we can do with printed text, but actually writing on hypertext media is not allowed by many programs. (Though I would say that some programs like Zotero that allow for note-taking in a bibliographical entry that contains an uploaded pdf allows for some writing, it seems that in Xanadu Space one can actually create a text that can be placed side by side with another text and linked to that text.) The connections made on the pages seem very geometrical in nature.

Latour Terminology

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling The Social : An Introduction To Actor-Network-Theory / Bruno Latour. n.p.: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2007., 2007. Old Dominion University’s Catalog. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

Since I will respond fully to Latour next week, I decided to start compiling a list of terms this week.

social – “a type of connection between things that are not themselves social” (5).

tracing of associations – a new way to define sociology that views the social as not “a thing among other things” (5), but as “a type of connection between things that are not themselves social” (5)

critical sociology – doesn’t limit itself to the social but replaces object by another matter made of social relations; substitution is unbearable for social actors needing to believe there is more than social; considers that actors’ objections to their social explanations offer proof that explanations are correct (9).

intermediary – transports meaning or force without transformation (39).

mediators – transform, translate, distort, and modify meaning (39).


CHAT MindMap Feb. 23

CHAT Mind Map croppedFor this week’s MindMap I attempted to map the core elements of the CHAT core texts. I started first by adding the node CHAT to my MindMap. From there, II branched off with a popplet labeled “Anti-Canon Argument” that included a brief statement of the claim that there is a need for a re-mapping of the canon. I used this node to map the CHAT authors’ argument against the canon by adding a popplets that explore key elements of the anti-canon argument: non-linearity of the canon, the canon’s too heavy focus on author/production, and the authors’ claims that memory and delivery need to be re-imagined.

The next node from the primary CHAT node was one through which I mapped the first vision of a re-imagine canon (take 1). The primary node was called “Solution 1: Revision of Canon.” From this node, I added a node on which I mapped the revised canon with nodes branching off for each element of the new canon: invention, style, memory, arrangement, mediation, distribution, reception. Another node from the “Solution 1” node explored the reasons why this first solution is ineffective.

From the original CHAT node, I added a third node labeled “Solution Take 2”. From this one I added a node that says “Get rid of canon.” I added a second node labeled “3-Levels of Rhetorical Activity.” To this node I added the picture I created of the nesting levels of the CHAT solution. I also added a node for each solution on which I defined what is included in that solution.

This mind mapping activity is helpful to me because it helped me get at the core argument of the CHAT core texts. I didn’t map any of the additional readings because I felt that none of them were really effective models of the methodology described in the CHAT core text.

Theory Assessment Rubric

When I began developing this rubric, I contemplated whether I wanted to develop a rubric specifically for the case study assignment (which was limited to viewing OoS at networks and exploring them as such via a theory we have explored in class) or a rubric that would work for any application of theory to an OoS. I decided to go with the latter option, and here are the results (make sure to click the link for full pdf):blank rubricTo test the rubric that I developed, I decided to read and assess Summer Glassie’s first case study assignment. In applying the rubric to Summer’s case study, I discovered the difficulties involved in applying a generalized rubric to a specific assignment without tailoring the rubric to that assignment. Here’s my application of the rubric to Summer’s case study (make sure to click the link for the full three-page pdf):

Rubric Applied to Glassie CS croppedThere were some sections of the rubric that I would deem successful. It was easy to assess Summer’s discussion of her object of study with the sections that I developed that focused on the object of study. Summer’s case study thoroughly described the object of study.

The problem that I ran into when assessing the assignment had to do with the context of the assignment. In retrospect, I think that my rubric would be best suited to an assignment that was not quite as highly contextualized as a 1,000 word blog entry applying a theory discussed in class is used to examine the way in which an object of study operates as a network. My rubric assumes that the theory being used needs to be introduced thoroughly in a way that Summer didn’t necessarily need to do in her blog entry because of the context (class in which all students had just read about that theory). A case study that described the theory in the detail that my rubric expects might need to be much longer than 1,000 words.

Another way that the rubric and the case study did not really work together is that the expectation set out by the rubric is that the OoS would be mapped extensively in terms of the theory. Summer’s case study did use the theory to frame her exploration of the types of speech acts, communications, and the actors that are involved in WoW guilds, but whereas the rubric lays out an expectation for an extensive, explicit technical discussion of the theory embedded within the discussion of the OoS, Summer’s case study approached the discussion of the theory as a framework within which to explore the OoS, and in so doing the theory was made a bit more implicit and foundational to the OoS rather than analogical as my rubric is designed to assess. My rubric wasn’t designed to assess this approach, which is a valid one, effectively.

If I were to design a new assessment for case studies, I think that I would design one that is tailored much more to the specific context of the assignment rather than one meant to be used for any theoretical application. Attention to context would include changes made on the basis of: length of assignment, primary purpose of the assignment, and local context of the assignment.

CHAT Reading Notes

Can the classic rhetorical canon work for examination of new media projects? The CHAT author’s say no.

Introduction and CHAT Defined

The introduction to the text provides a clear overview of the argument that the author’s make in the core texts and provides a clear definition of CHAT (cultural-historical activity theory).

I think perhaps the most important thing to take away from the introduction is the central argument behind CHAT:

It argues that activity is situated in concrete interactions that are simultaneously improvised locally and mediated by historically provided tools and practices.

Another key statement is the construction of mediated activity:

Mediated activity involves externalization (speech, writing, the manipulation and construction of objects and devices) and co-action (with other people, artifacts, and elements of the social-material environment) as well as internalization (perception, learning).

Add to this the idea that:

Mediated activity also means that action and cognition are distributed over time and space among people, artifacts, and environments.

Webtext Core Text

The Webtext Core Text begins by examining the five classical canons of rhetoric (invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery) and explained that recent approaches to rhetoric have focused primarily on invention, arrangement, and style. The authors claim that there is a need for a new mapping of rhetorical activity because the five canons are not sufficient to examine all of the complex elements that make up rhetorical activity, and they claim that even ancient rhetoric could have not been fully examined with the five rhetorical canons because they ignored elements such as reception. The authors strategically examine the classical canons and explain how the canons are not useful in investigating rhetorical activities, particularly digital new media works. The re-imagine memory as being mediated by tools like writing and that delivery should be viewed as a mediation and distribution (6-7) rather than orality (4-5). The authors also explain that the canons are not linear in the way that the classical canons have been interpreted, and that the canon focused primarily on the author or production rather than the complexities of the interaction with the audience (10-11). Because of these issues, they claim that it is best to re-map rhetorical activity than to try to “retrofit this ancient tool to do varieties of work it was never designed to address” (8).

In effort to remap the canon, the author’s first explore a map that revises delivery to include mediation and distribution and to add reception to the the canon. At first this seems to be a sensible solution, but then the author’s explain that this re-mapped canon does not necessarily allow us to examine complex networks (12). The classical canon and the initial re-mapped canon overlooked the role that socialization plays in rhetorical activity. The “cultural-historical activity theory” argues that “Mediated activity involves externalization (speech, writing, the manipulation and construction of objects and devices) and co-action (with other people, artifacts, and elements of the social-material environment) as well as internalization (perception, learning)” (17). The primary issue that CHAT explores is “how people, institutions, and artifacts are made in history” (18).

In their remapping of the rhetorical activity, the authors include three levels of mapping:

Map of Take 2 of CHAT Map of Rhetorical Activity

Map of Take 2 of CHAT Map of Rhetorical Activity. Laminated Chronotopes may me embodied, represented, and/or embedded. Functional systems may include people, artifacts, practices, institutions, communities, and/or ecologies. Literate activity may include production, representation, distribution, reception, socialization, activity, and/or ecology.

They define chronotopes as: “embodied activity-in-the-world, representational worlds, and chronotopes embedded in material and semiotic artifacts” (19). The authors claim that the map of literate activity is closest to the canon and best for rhetorical practice and rhetorical instruction (19). The authors give a thorough description of each of these literate activities. The CHAT is much more effective because whereas “the classical canons mapped the situational, productive acts of a rhetor, this CHAT map points to a complex set of interlocking systems within which rhetors are formed, act, and navigate” (22). This map is much more effective for analyzing new media projects because it “argues for attending to the full range of multimodality and to material ecologies throughout the process” (23). It also allows us to understand the role socialization plays in rhetorical activity in that it “opens up consideration of how rhetors and audiences are socialized, how means are made and black-boxed, and how situations are built and altered” (24)

Prior, Paul. “Remaking IO, remaking rhetoric: Semiotic remediation as situated rhetorical practice.” Paul Prior, et al.“Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity, A Collaborative Webtext.” Kairos 11.3 (2007).

In “Remaking IO,” Paul Prior examines the way in which a digital art project was revised after new advances in software made it possible to make the art project more interactive. The text provides an example of the way in which mediation through tools of production impacts representation, distribution, and receptions (Core Text 27). Prior argues that a focus on the computer as the sole tool of mediation ignores the way in “which IO was drawn, talked, and gestured into existence” (Prior). Prior explains the complex process of revising the project. Several people with differing expertise participated, and their negotiations and discussions had a significant impact on the finished product. Prior says focusing on the process of creating new media is important because it has received little attention, and it also provides an example of the way in which new media projects “display a chronotopic lamination” in which “multiple times and places [are] uniting in the present”.

Van Ittersum, Derek. “Distributing Memory: Rhetorical Work in Digital Environments.” Derek Van Ittersum, et al. “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity, A Collaborative Webtext.” Kairos 11.3 (2007).

Derek Can Ittersum’s contribution to this collaborative project focuses on CHAT’s re-imagined vision of memory and it’s place in the map of rhetorical activity. Van Ittersum says that CHAT “provides a more complete picture, directing our attention to the interplay between artifacts, practices, and people within specific instances of literate activity” and that it provides “more robust ways of understanding the digital tools, practices, and products of modern memory work.” In the text, Van Ittersum explores the way in which writers use software focused on memory. The specifioc examples he uses of the way in which student writers used search functions in software and note-taking. Van Ittersum says that memory work is involved in other elements of the production of texts. Using software that facilitates memory allowed students to develop writing practices while constructing memory. He says that memory “is more than memorization and recall, and that it may be understood as a dynamic process of storing, accessing, and mobilizing information within complex systems of tools, environments, situations, and people.”

Berry, Patrick. “Critical Remediation: Locating Eliza.” Patrick Berry, et al. “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity, A Collaborative Webtext.” Kairos 11.3 (2007).

In this text, Patrick Berry examines multiple remediations of Shaw’s character Eliza from Pygmalion in order to look at these remediations “as cultural narrative that relentlessly resurfaces across a range of media and contexts.” Berry examines the mediators that were present in Shaw’s play. Berry explores the tensions between two different definitions of remediation: “The act or process of correcting a fault or deficiency”  and the way in which “one medium is seen by our culture as reforming or improving upon the other.” He suggests a third meaning: “the endless social and cultural shifts that happen in our everyday lives.” Berry says that the literacy narrative in Pygmalion is mirrored by many composition research narratives, as well as by digital literacies. Since “values about literate practice ‘can trsnacend the boundaries between print and electronic literacies'” Berry says, “our rhetorical canons also need to transcend boundaries, to examine broader networks of activity.” Berry says that Eliza’s performance and identity at the garden party is artificial. He suggets that the “authentic human” is a false notion, and that nonhuman actors mediate “our lives both rhetorically and materially.” CHAT’s approach to canon “locates meaning in action and focuses on the work of mediational means.”

Roozen, Kevin. “Math, the ‘Poetry Slam,’ and Mathemagicians: Tracing Trajectories of Practice and Person.” Kevin Roozen, et al. “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity, A Collaborative Webtext.” Kairos 11.3 (2007).

Roozen opens this text with a discussion of the ways in which invention has been viewed as occurring only within a specific context bound by time, location, particular activity. In the text, Roozen challenges this notion with the case of a student who operates within a number of “rhetorical engagements” (in this case, math education, sketch comedy, and game development). Roozen found that Brian’s knowledge and experiences in these “rhetorical engagements” often informed how he operated within or related to his involvement in other engagements or activities (ie. advanced math played a large role in his sketch comedy). In creating a role-playing game, Brian created a system of magic based on mathematics (Mathemagic). Roozen says that “Brian’s math classes, sketch comedy, and gaming are so interwoven that it is impossible to talk about one activity without bringing up the others.” Brian is never only involved in one of these realms. Roozen claims that “we write who we are–literate selves forged from the full range of our literate activities.” Relating his study of Brian’s involvement in these varying activities, Roozen says that “CHAT points to the diachronic trajectories of remediations across diverse rhetorical contexts and a range of media, and thus profound heterogeneity of material-social worlds.” CHAT alerts writing teachers to the fact that we need to “attend to the rich experiences persons have with writing and reading in settings other than school and to how, whether, and to what extent the trajectories of those practices shape and are permitted to shape our students’ engagement in school literacy tasks.”

Questions and Reflections

What does it mean for chronotopes to be embodied, represented, or embedded?

While I feel I understood the way in which the varying levels of the CHAT map operated in a board sense, I had a bit more trouble envisioning what a specific chronotope would look like. The core text refers to them as “time-spaces” first described by Bakhtin (19). They are described as being “embodied activity-in-the-world, representational worlds, and chronotopes embedded in material and semiotic artifacts” (19). Functional systems exist within chronotopes. To understand this I looked again at the visual I added above that shows functional systems within laminated chronotopes and literate activity within functional systems. Since the chronotopes are “laminated” it seems that there are perhaps several functional systems tied or held together, but how so? According to the CHAT outline, this tying together of functional systems is made evident by being embodied, represented, or embedded.

Is an archive a chronotope?

I wonder if an archive (a library, a museum, even a display at a tourist attraction) might be a chronotope. I am not entirely certain that this is an analogy that works, but it seems to me  a laminated chronotope is similar to such an archive. An museum might house a section over a photographs of Queen Victoria and Saints in the Middle Ages, two subjects that don’t seem to have a great deal in common except that they are historical in nature, but their inclusion in the Getty brings them together under one roof and makes a statement that the artifacts in these two exhibits are important aspects of history.

Problematizing Van Ittersum’s Cockpit Analogy

When reading Van Ittersum’s discussion of distributed cognition, I felt inclined to disagree with Van Ittersum’s analysis of navigation in the cockpit as a not showing evidence of “distribution of cognition  not just among many tools and devices, but among people across time and space.” On the one hand, it may take only the pilot to physically operate an airplane, while a large naval ship is dependent upon many more people to keep it running, the aircraft operates within a vast network of air traffic control, and it may be further constrained by affiliations (ie. airline or military). Can we discuss the activity of piloting without a nod toward the vast network of other people involved that make decisions that help or hamper the goal of the activity? As an example of the way in which tools mediate memory, I think the example was very effective. The vast network of air traffic, though, requires mediation of airspace by air traffic control.

I must admit that I have a bit of a fascination with air traffic control recordings, particularly the recordings of the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) on the morning of September 11, 2011. I’m interested in the recordings as evidence of the way that the system operates.

Naturally, the fighter jets that were scrambled that day were operated by individuals who had the cognitive ability and memory to operate the plans on their own, but the without the navigation provided by EADS, the pilots have no knowledge of where to fly unless they have a visual on the target. This short sound bite only shows one conversation between a commander and a major working at EADS informing the commander of the needs of the mission. Other nodes in the network, civilian air traffic controllers, commanders at other bases, others working at EADS, are evident in lengthier recordings.


Mediated activity – “involves externalization (speech, writing, the manipulation and construction of objects and devices) and co-action (with other people, artifacts, and elements of the social-material environment) as well as internalization (perception, learning)”.

writing – mediated memory systems; a revolutionary way to reorganize memory (4).

delivery – CHAT re-maps delivery as both mediation and distribution

invention – recursive process that occurs throughout the project (8).

speaker – CHAT re-envisions the speaker as author, principal, and animator (10).

listeners – CHAT re-envisions the listener as “addressed or unaddressed, ratified or unratified, with variable access to the speaker’s communication” (10).

black-boxing – “the process of producing established facts or unproblematic elements” (14).

ecology – “the biotic and natural world, which enables and constraints all the previous functions and which may be a domain of rhetorical action” (21).

activity – “more or less durable, goal-oriented, motivated projects that lead people to cooperation, indifference, and conflict” (21).

MindMap Feb. 16 Spinuzzi

MindMap Feb 16.

For this week’s MindMap activity, I added a node connected both to the primary node labeled “Network Theory” and to the “Genre Theory” node where I mapped the previous week’s readings on genre theory. I added a new primary node in blue labeled “Genre Tracing Theory” and I gave a very brief definition of what genre theory studies. From this node, I added two red nodes: Activity Systems and Genre Tracing Methodology. I used the Activity Systems node, which contains the definition of an activity system, to explore the varying elements of activity system theory. From there, I added a node called “Levels of Scope” and added a note that states that while they may be examined separately, they are also intertwined. From this node, I added a node for each level of scope, from which I added nodes to explore the role of the level in activity theory, how genres are related to or play a role in each level, and I also added an example of the activity of nursing.

The other node that I branched from the primary node is labeled is called “Genre Tracing Methodology”. There are two nodes branched from there labeled “Data Collection” and another called “Data Analysis.” From the “Data Collection” node I added nodes for the steps in the data collection process and a node containing the variety of methods used. From the “Data Analysis” node, I included a discussion of the methodology and I also included a list of methods in data analysis.

Mapping these components of genre tracing theory is very helpful particularly because the elements of an activity system can seem very complex. A basic map of those elements helps me quickly review how they are interrelated. I also found it helpful to map genre tracing methodology so I could visit the popplet to get a quick review of what is involved in this methodology as well as some of the methods for both data collection and analysis.

Activity System Levels

Case Study #1 Peer Reviews

For this assignment, I responded to case studies written by Daniel and Amy.

Case Study Icon

Daniel’s post applying Foucault’s discursive formation to Google Analytics was enlightening on several levels. Firstly, I wasn’t really aware of how Google Analytics work, so I now have a better understanding of how it works. Also, reading the way in which Daniel applied the theory to Google Analytic helped me gain a deeper understanding of Foucault’s theory. I used Foucault in my own case study, but reading Daniels analysis revealed some of the ways in which I could more effectively apply the theory. For instance, I could have focused on describing how the network of La Leche League is constantly in flux, and I could have explained that my map of the network was by no means an attempt to capture the constant state of the network. I did pose a few questions to Daniel seeking clarification on concepts he described. For example, it seemed to me that there is a possibility that the object of the discursive formation might change once the user of Google Analytics begins to examine the data. Perhaps the object is still the page, or is it the data? Another question I had was whether the archived data actually is not part of the flow. It seems to me that once the user begins to examine the data, the data might become part of the flow. One of the most fascinating things that Daniel discussed is the difference between the networked archive and the archived network. I found this a fascinating contrast. It seems, from what I understand, that the networked archive can be an active part of the network, while the archived network may not be, unless the archived network is networked.

I really enjoyed reading Amy’s discussion of MOOCs and the application of computer network theory to MOOCs in part because I have recently been attempting to make my in-person class more student-centered, and I read Friere’s discussion of the banking concept. I wasn’t that familiar with MOOCs, so this discussion was very enlightening in that regard. Amy discussed the flow of information in the course in terms of buses, and I found this very helpful for envisioning the way in which Friere’s analysis of traditional education (the banking theory) is similar to a “serial” bus, and the more student-centered approach is like a parallel bus. I did have a few questions for Amy, particularly about the issue of agency. I would like to have seen more discussion of the relationship between students and how information flows between students as nodes. Also, I was curious about how the flow back of information from student might impact the entirety of the network.

Case Study 1: The Enunciative Derivation of La Leche League

Foucault’s approach to the archaeological study of discourse, particularly the “tree of enunciative derivation,” described in his text The Archaeology of Knowledge, is a very useful concept for exploring the way in which networked organizations develop and how each node in the organizational network functions within the larger frame of the network. To explore the way in which Foucault’s theory can be applied to a large networked organization, I have chosen to examine La Leche League, an international organization dedicated to supporting breastfeeding mothers and to promoting understanding of breastfeeding. La Leche League was officially formed in 1958 by a group of nursing mothers in Illinois, and has now grown to an international organization of “mother-to-mother” breastfeeding support and advocacy groups. The organization has a board of directors, an Executive Director, and an Associate Director. Countries with a La Leche League presence have their own national chapters of La Leche League. (The US umbrella organization is called La Leche League USA.) The USA organization is further broken down into state or regional groups. These groups are further divided into either individual meeting groups (in cities with one La Leche League group), or in large cities they may be divided into a city-wide group that is further divided into several individual groups. At the local level, La Leche League meetings are headed by a certified La Leche League Group Leader. While the primary goal of La Leche League is to provide support for breastfeeding mothers and advocate for breastfeeding in the local La Leche League meetings, the organization also has other ways of meeting these goals, such as the Peer Counseling program where non-certified La Leche League members counsel others who are nursing. The organization also hosts conferences and other educationally focused meetings.

Map of International La Leche League Groups.

Map of International La Leche League Groups.

If we were to view the organization as a network, the central node in the group would be the central organization, which has a “core philosophy” composed of 10 separate statements. Other nodes (listed in order of their distance from the central node) include national umbrella groups, regional groups, individual groups, the group leaders, and individual group members. Foucault’s concept of the “tree of enunciative derivation” includes statements at all levels. According to Foucault, the statement has no criteria for unity, and it is not a unit; instead, it is a “function that cuts across a domain of structures and possible unities and reveals them with concrete contents, in time and space” (87). By looking at the dispersion of statements through the network of La Leche League, I hope to uncover evidence about the way in which statements that seem abstract at the base level of the tree of enunciative derivation are put into action and revealed in the “concrete contents” and “time and space” (87) of the local Le Leche League meeting.

At the base level of the tree of enunciative derivation, “are the statements that put into operation rules of formation in their most extended form” (147). The core mission of La Leche League, the rules of the organization that are meant to govern its activity at all levels, are include it the 10 statement philosophy:
• Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.
• Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
• In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.
• Breast milk is the superior infant food.
• For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth.
• Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
• Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
• Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.
• Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
• From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings. (La Leche League)

The central node of the organization, the base of the tree of enunciative formation, is a guiding philosophy, but until these statements are acted upon by the node branching from the central node, they remain merely untested, undescribed statements. La Leche League’s philosophy , as the root of the network, are the governing statements “that concern the definition of observable structures and the field of possible objects, those that prescribe the forms of description and the perceptual codes that it can use, those that reveal the most general possibilities of characterization, and thus open up a whole domain of concepts to be structures, and those that, while constituting a strategic choice, leave room for the greatest number of subsequent options” (147). La Leche League may have broad rules guiding the general workings of a meeting, and group leaders may be expected to behave in certain ways, share certain types of materials, and provide certain types of support to nursing mothers, but the central organization is not directly involved in these acts. It seems then, that agency is most strongly associated with the nursing mother. The mother and her child are the subjects of most of the statements guiding the organization. Foucault says that “the subject of the statement is also the subject of the operation” and that a proposition can be called a statement if “the position of the subject can be assigned” (95). While other nodes in the network have some agency (such as in the case of the group leader, who can report back to the organization, which may in turn act on the leader’s information), the primary agency belongs to the mother. It is the activity of the mother, along with her child, that is the subject, and it is only the mother who can see that the true goals of the organization are meet (or at least attempted to be met).

It is in the individual meetings, often several nodes removed from the originating node of the central administration of the organization, that the true significance of the governing statements is made evident. It is here that nursing mothers come, looking for real answers to real problems with nursing. Here, at the local meeting, the interaction between network nodes is much more specific. The nursing mother, the far summit of the network, comes to the group leader seeking information. The group leader shares information based on the basic philosophies of the organization, but much more specific in nature (such as proper latch techniques and information about using a SNS (supplemental nursing system). The mother may report back that the techniques have not worked for her, and the group leader may suggest alternative solutions. This specificity of the local meeting reflects what Foucault says about the far reaching branches of the tree of enunciative derivation. He says, “at the end of the branches, or at various places in the whole, a burgeoning of ‘discoveries’ (like that of fossil series), conceptual transformations (like the new definition of the genus), the emergence of new notions (like that of mammals or organisms, technical improvements (principles for organizing collections, methods of classification, and nomenclature)” (147). It is at the local group level that the need for new interpretations or articulations of statements is made evident. The necessity for specific transformations or understandings of core statements becomes evident, and the group leaders may report these transformations back to the central organization, which may then develop a new statement giving suggestions for how group leaders may want to address specific issues that could possibly arise. This seems to have been the case when, in 1987, La Leche League published an article called “Guidelines for Helping Employed Mothers Breastfeed” in Leaven, La Leche League’s quarterly journal. Accoding to a note on the website, “These guidelines for holding a special meeting for employed breastfeeding women are the culmination of a 1986 Pilot Study conducted in Colorado and Wyoming. It was developed by Alice Edwards, Regional Administrator of the Mountain Region” (La Leche League). It seems that the need for strategies to helping employed mothers was noticed at the local level, and a regional administrator attempted to pilot specific strategies to do so, then reported back to the organization, which disseminated the information for other group leaders.

Map of La Leche League Network. The orginzation serves as the base and includes 10 key statements of philosophy, which guide activities at other levels. Each level further from the base interprets the statements with increasing specificity. The nodes at the summit report back and inform the future of the organization.

Map of La Leche League Network. The orginzation serves as the base and includes 10 key statements of philosophy, which guide activities at other levels. Each level further from the base interprets the statements with increasing specificity. The nodes at the summit report back and inform the future of the organization.

While at the organizational level, there is a network of leadership, the base of the organization is the statements that guide the organization. It seems likely that, if the organization were to transform, it would do so at the local level first before it does at the organizational level because it seems to be at the local level hat “the appearances of objects, types of enunciation, concepts, strategic choices, (or transformations that affect those that already exist)” occur at the local (or regional levels)—the branching from the tree. Foucault says that archaeology shows that events (like individual meetings or conversations between group leaders and mothers may transform statements by being presented, becoming an object for discourse, being recorded, “described, explained, elaborated into concepts, and provide the opportunity for a theoretical choice” (167). So what happens at the summit may inform the base organization. This is why I believe that if the network dissolves, it will do so first at the local level. The unique moments of the network may pass away, and groups may stop meeting. Eventually, if the meetings are discontinued, then what remains? I suppose it would be the base of the tree of enunciative derivation, those statements that guide the organization, as well as new statements that have been introduced into the discourse through the activity of the organization.

Foucault’s tree of enunciative derivation was very useful for examining the network of La Leche League, but one thing that I think that I would like to explore further that I do not see a way into with Foucault’s theory is genre theory’s focus on action and the way in which action is guided by meaning, by perception, and not by material (Miller 156). I also would be very interested in exploring Bazerman’s claim about the three levels of analysis of a speech act: the literal statement, the intended act, the actual effect (Bazerman 315).

Works Cited

Foucault, Michel, Alan Sheridan, and Michel Foucault. The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972. Print.

“LLLI Philosophy.” La Leche League. N. p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

Spinuzzi Reading Notes

No More Heroes Please: The Problem With User-Centered Approaches

Since we just finished reading Bazerman and Miller’s discussions of genre theory, I can’t help but view Spinuzzi’s argument in favor of genre tracing through the lens of rhetorical motivation (as opposed to exigency, which is reactionary) (Miller 155). Spinuzzi focuses a good deal of effort spends a lot of effort early on in the text on explaining his motivation for developing genre tracing: the way in which rhetoric and technical communication view user-centered design as heroic work focused on rescuing the victimized worker. Genre tracing, according to Spinuzzi is the study of workplace genres and innovations “in sociocultural terms, to scrutinize their genealogies, explore the contingencies that explore them, and plot their trajectories within the activities they mediate” (x).  While user-centered design is based on social constructivism and claims to utilize the worker as codesigner (8-9), fieldwork in user-centered design does not allow for worker agency and does not allow for local exigencies (19). This is a very strong justification for the development of a theory that does truly utilize worker agency. Fieldwork attempts to turn a centrifugal (informal) workplace communication into a centripetal communication that is refined by the designer (21). The problem with this is that formalization replaces quick, changeable solutions with static ones that are not as flexible to changing workplace contexts (21).

The Designer as Hero: An Example of Paternalistic User-Centered Design

I think that this video is very illustrative of the way in which designers see themselves as heroes of those who need their design expertise. Who could be more in need of help than people institutionalized after a psychotic break? This designer, Aga Szóstek, talks about her role in developing a lamp that helps regulating the breathing of psychiatric patients by encouraging them to undertake a relaxing pattern of breathing. The patient testing the lamp was not satisfied with the lamp designs because the lamp was meant to impose a breathing pattern on the patient, and the patient was not able to manipulate the lamp or input data into the lamp. The patient was not satisfied with the design because the lamp didn’t listen to her. When the designers finally came up with a design where the lamp replicated the patients breathing before gradually beginning to impose the breathing pattern on the patient, the patient was satisfied. It made me think of the way in which the heroic designer often strips the worker of his or her agency. The patient using the lamp was not able to exercise agency with the design, but simply had the design imposed upon her, until the designers altered the design to allow the patient more leeway in the operation of the lamp.

Genre Tracing Theory

Spinuzzi points out that one of the central problems with user-centered design fieldwork is that it tends to look at one central cause of workplace problems at one level: macroscopic (the activity; underlying structure), the mesoscopic (actions), and the microscopic (operational level) (27). Spinuzzi explains that the problem with focusing on only one level of scope, as in fieldwork-to-formal user-centered design research, is that it ignores the user perspective and experience, may not allow for the creation of texts that empower workers, and may not allow for “sustainable solutions” (28). In contrast, “sociocultural theory points to an integrated-scope approach that no such lines between the observed person or thing and the context, or between operations on one side and activities and actions on the other” (28). By using activity theories approach to studying the macroscopic level, the mesocscopic level, and the microscopic level as a separate parts of one activity system (36). Spinuzzi says that, “in every sphere of activity, collaborators use instruments to transform a particular object with a particular outcome in mind” (37). Mediating artifact, or instruments used in achieving the goal of the activity, “qualitatively change the entire activity in which workers engage” (38). Spinuzzi explains that the artifacts used for mediation “bear the material traces of an ongoing activity, represent problem solving in that activity, and thus tend to stabilize the activity in which they are used” (39). He explains that genres also serve a mediatory role in the activity system, but they are more than simply tools: “they emerge from cultural-historical activity and represent, reflect, stabilize, and help constitute that activity” (41). Spinuzzi explains that genres, though they are temporarily stable social constructs, change as activities change, but they also provide a memory of the past (42-43). Spinuzzi details the way in which genres are present in the varying levels of an activity system, as well as the role that genres play within those levels. Because we can study genres at all levels, the study of genre within activity systems allows for “an integrated-scope understanding of genre” (47). Since genres operate on several levels in an activity system, and an activity system may contain numerous genres to mediate the work of the activity system, Spinuzzi suggests that we should use “genre tracing” to identify “insights into how much ecologies of genres jointly mediate the workers’ operations, actions, and activities” (49). To address the complexity of genre system, Spinuzzi proposes using a methodology that he calls genre tracing, which explores “those innovations to find out what they might teach us about the messiness of work, the agency of workers, and the ways the workers themselves can better be supported in continuing to develop innovations” (51). Genre theory, according to Spinuzzi, “attempts to integrate levels of scope by tracing a sociocultural unit of analysis—genre—across three levels” (51).

Spinuzzi says that the methodology of genre theory includes:
• Data collection based on an integrated-scope examination of genres, their mediational relationships, and the destabilization involved in them (51). Methods include: Contextual design, participatory design, ethnography, ethnomethodology, customer partnering, and joint application design (51).
• Data analysis is done across all levels. Collected data is analyzed by “tracing a developmental history by examining how genres have been adopted, developed, changed, and hybridized over time in response to the activity’s contingencies” (53). This can be done through the use of activity system diagrams, genre ecology diagrams, videocoding databases, and CDB tables (53-56).
Spinuzzi does describe limitations of genre theory: it is time consuming, it requires trained researchers, it requires a significant commitment from involved parties, and it can be data heavy (56).

The final three chapters of the text apply Spinuzzi’s methodology to study “the activity of traffic accident and analysis in the state of Iowa” (57). From these studies, he finds that the relationships between genres in an activity system develop over time and genres are adapted to help mediate other genres (Chapter 3). He discovers why destabilizations occur and they ways in which workers develop innovations to deal with these destabilizations (Chapter 4). He discovers the impacts that centripetal formularization of genres by introducing new complications to an activity system and that workers may have to develop centrifugal innovations (Chapter 5). Finally, Spinuzzi explores the way in which genre tracing can be used to create a new method of design that allows workers to play a larger role in the development of innovations while still benefiting from the expertise of designers.

The EPR as Mediating Genre in the WAPS: Destabilization Across Activity System Levels

As I was reading about the levels of genre within the activity system and the ways in which genre destabilization in one level of the system will “necessarily coconstitute destabilization at the other levels of scope,” it occurred to me that I have recently observed the destabilization of an activity system (Air Force promotions) caused by problems with the Enlisted Performance Report (EPR), the genre used to mediate evaluation of enlisted military personnel in the Air Force (47). The EPR is an instrument used by Non-Commissioned Officers to facilitate the evaluation of lower-ranking personnel. I believe that the promotional system (WAPS) could be called macroscopic, while the EPR is a mesocopic text meant to evaluate military member’s overall performance at the microscopic level.

Enlisted Performance Report:

AF Form 910. Air Force EPR.

AF Form 910. Air Force EPR. 1st Page.

The completed EPR includes a numerical score for the overall performance of the Aire Force member. The highest score possible is 5. A score of 3 in meant to be assigned to personnel who meets acceptable criteria. A score of 5 was originally intended for top performers, the best of the best. The EPR score is calculated into formula used to decide who will be promoted to the next rank as part of the Weighted Airman Promotion System. Other factors that are used as part of WAPS include scores on “promotional fitness exams,” time in service, time in grade, and awards and decorations. As well as being used to gauge promotability, the EPR is also important to future career growth. Competitive special duty assignments are important to career progression, but it is nearly impossible to be considered for selection in special duty assignments when the servicemember earned less than 5 on an EPR. The stakes are high, and the perception is that earning a score of less than a 5 can be a career killer. This is why “current Enlisted Performance Report ratings are often inflated. Roughly 80 percent of enlisted airmen receiving the top score of 5, Cody [Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force] said, which renders the rating system effectively useless” (Losey). From extensive conversations with my spouse, who has been writing EPRs since 2007 as a Non-Commissioned Officer (a rater) and who has been teaching leaderships skills (including writing EPRs as a Professional Military Educator, I understand that , while in theory the 5 should be reserved for the top performers, it is actually more difficult to rate an airman lower than a 5 than it is to rate a 5 because squadron leadership must approve EPR ratings, and raters must provide sufficient proof that the airman in question deserves to be rated lower. EPRs with low ratings are often kicked back to the rater for reevaulation or further evidence, which usually must come in the form of a paper-work trail (including Letters of Counseling and Letters of Reprimand). Lack of a paper-work trails suggests that the airman is doing his or her job effectively. Because the results of the EPR evaluation system are skewed by over-inflation of scores, and because of the pressure to earn a 5, both the macroscopic and microscopic levels of the promotional activity system are skewed. At the macro-level, promotions are effected by inflated EPRs. Because time in grade and time in service are calculated into the overall promotion score, along with the EPR score, the inflation of scores may cause high-quality, lower-ranking personnel will be passed up for promotion over those who have been serving longer, even if the person serving longer is actually mediocre. During the fall of 2013, the Air Force conducted a mock selection board for MSgt. to see how such a system would compare to the current system of promoting MSgts. The results showed that, “10 percent of the airmen not selected for promotion to master sergeant would get promoted by a board process, and another 10 percent of airmen selected for promotion would not advance if they had to go before a board” (Schogol and Losey). At the microscopic level, the determination for a 5 can distract the military member from actual duties in effort to check boxes off on the EPR. Volunteer activities and education are criteria in the determination of an EPR score. Those who ignore their daily operational duties to check boxes off of their EPRs are often referred to as “professional box checkers”. Ignoring day-to-day duties can have a negative impact on others who share the workplace and responsibilities. Because of the disruption caused by the inflation of the EPR, the Air Force plans to discontinue the use of the numerical EPR score and institute a written performance evaluation. Applying the foundational concepts of genre tracing theory to the EPR has helped me understand how disruption in one level of the system causes problems in other areas.

Terms/Key Ideas

macroscopic level – cultural-historical; unconscious level;

mesoscopic level – driven by goal-directed action; workers are consciously engaged in this level; involves the execution of tasks with tools

microscopic level – moment-by-moment operations; performed unconsciously after operationalization is learned

Artifact of genre – collaborators use tools to transform objects with specific goals in mind

intergrated reserach scope – examining all three levels: activity, actions, and operation to understand how they interact, coconstitute each other, and how innovations at one level impact these levels

coconstitution – the intertwined nature of the three levels of scope

compound mediation – “the ways that workers coordinate sets of artifacts to help get their jobs down” (48).

Works Cited

Losey, Stephen. “New EPR Could Drop Number Ratings.” N. p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Losey, Stephen, and Stephen Schogol. “Promoting the best: Tech sgts. may have to impress a board to advances.” N. p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing genres through organizations: A sociocultural approach to information design. Vol. 1. Mit Press, 2003.

“User-centered Design: Aga Szóstek at TEDxWarsaw.” 16 May 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.

MindMap Feb. 9: Genre Theory

MindMap Feb. 9.

Since I am trying to keep track of the various theories that we are exploring in the class, for this week’s MindMap I added a popplet labeled “Genre Theory” that branches off from the central node labeled “Networks”. In the new node labeled “Genre Theory,” I included three brief definitions of “genre” from our readings. Branching off of the node labeled “Genre Theory” I added four new nodes labeled “Action,” “Recurrence,” “Utterance,” and “Situation”. All of these elements are central to understanding the nature of genres, and I added them so that I could further elaborate on the definitions of genre that I provided in the “Genre Theory” node. From each of these nodes (“Action,” “Recurrence,” “Utterance,” and “Situation”) I connected several new popplets to describe how they are central to genre theory. For example, one of the popplets branching from the word “Action” says “Action is guided by meaning, by perception, not by material (Miller 156). So this means that content, context, and interpretation are more important than generic form”. I found this to be a very helpful exercises because it is helping me identify the core elements of genre theory and then to explore them so that I develop a  clear understanding of the basic tenants of genre theory and how they relate to one another.

ENGL 894: Responses to Annotated Bibliographies

Amazon planning to launch e-book subscription service.

I found that my peer’s discussions of the texts from Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation offered possibilities for applying Foucault’s discourse theory as well as genre theory to the practice of teaching, evaluating, and assessing digital writing projects. For my first response to a classmate’s annotated bibliography I chose to read  Leslie’s response to and analysis of “The Evolution of Digital Writing Assessment in Action: Integrated Programmatic Assessment” by B. Brunk-Chavez and J. Fourzan-Rice. I’ve read a good deal about the assessment of writing programs, but I have not really read much about assessment of writing programs that focus on digital writing projects. As Leslie detailed in her discussion of the program and in her comparison to her own institution, the replicability of such a program is limited by local constraints. To think through this, I chose to apply Foucault’s tree of enunciative derivation to the program itself, with the program as the base and individual classes at the summit (though I feel that further branching is possible), and also with the concept of first-year writing programs more broadly with individual programs such as that at UTEP at the summit. I agree with Leslie that the local constraints, including budget, human resources/staffing issues, pedagogy, and other localized concerns make it impossible to replicate the program with exactitude.

The second annotated bibliography to which I chose to respond was Suzanne’s response to Zoetewey, Simmons and Grabill’s  “Assessing Civic Engagement: Responding to Online Spaces for Public Deliberation.” The summary of the article was eye-opening because I have not before read any discussions of the major differences between usability and usefulness in the assessment of digital writing projects. I felt that that the frequent focus on usability (which is likely easier to assess than usefulness) is detrimental to the true rhetorical purpose of texts. In “Genre as Social Action,” Miller claims that genre theory should focus on the action that the genre is meant to accomplish rather than form or substance (151). The focus on usability over usefulness is a focus on form or substance rather than a focus on the action that the rhetoric is meant to bring about. I found the discussion of the conflict between usability and usefulness that Suzanne described to be very helpful in developing a true understanding of what it means to be focused on the action driving a rhetorical object rather than the form. I’ve noticed that in teaching genres in writing classes, often the focus has been on the form or structure (the five paragraph essay) rather than what it is that the genre being taught is attempting to do. This piece is a good reminder that attention to rhetorical action is important for all types of assignments, not just digital writing assignments. Often the rhetorical action is overlooked.