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Scaffolding Synthesis: The Cypher as Network

Scaffolding Synthesis: The Cypher as Network Rhetorical Situation Theory, Genre Theory, and CHAT Theories Which 2 – 4 theories are you choosing and why? For the Synthesis project, my object of study is the hip hop cypher. This project will address the question “Why is studying my OoS useful to English Studies?” To do this, […]

Mind Map: Week 11

Mindmap11

In my mind map this week, I added a primary node of Ecology with smaller nodes linking out to Spellman and Syverston (since my book didn’t come until Tuesday, I only read summaries and, thus, I need to read him before I try to add him). As a result of our discussions in class this week, I created a connecting contrast node between Spellman and Latour. I actually had a date with a biologist on Saturday who studies freshwater streams and lakes, so this was a topic of our conversation. It was interesting for me to try to explain my perception (based on our readings and discussions) that ecology focuses on groups and classification. He didn’t see it until I explained how Latour’s theory of tracing all of the messy connections to an individual helps to define that individual’s network–the result of which would not be generalizable to other individuals. For instance, a species of fish serves a role in an ecosystem–its niche–and the role could be filled by any other of the fish in that species. However, while human individuals also serve a role in their network, all of an individual’s roles within his or her own specialized network cannot be fulfilled by another individual, because we have such a high level of agency and the importance we place on social systems.

I also added a primary node for Syverston and connected her concept of emergence to Bazerman, as I see a direct connection with the concept of speech acts and genres. This is a connection I plan to explore more as part of my own research.


Case Study 2: AT + GT + MOOCs = Alphabet Soup

Introduction: In my first case study, I examined the Composition MOOC from the lens of structural theory, which provided a foundation upon which to build this second layer of analysis. There are a number of scholarly discussions concerning the technological … Continue reading

Responding to Case Study #2 Outlines

I read and responded to Amy’s ENGL894 Locklear Case Study 2 Outline and to Jenny’s Exploring the Flow of Information in LLL via Rhetorical Situation and Genre Theory. Each took a different approach to the application of theories to object of study from each other and from the one I took in my outline, and I found that difference instructive and reflective of the continued emphasis our theorists place on difference in discursive formation.

Both Amy and Jenny took a more formal approach to the outline than I did. Their outlines included the standard numbers and letters (mediated, I noticed, by Microsoft Word’s formatting expectations and defaults, a particular pet peeve of mine), while my outline consisted of a table that (I hope) functions as an operationalized comparison and contrast rubric for the case study (mediated, I admit, by the focus on “compare and contrast” and a desire to place my theoretical conversants in a concrete framework). I also noticed that Jenny and Amy carefully examined and summarized the theories they seek to apply, while I more generally mentioned my applied theories and focused more attention on addressing the questions of the final assignment. In some ways I feel I shortchanged my outline (and I’ll regret that in the days leading up to March 23); in other ways, however, I’m working to convince myself that I directly addressed the expectations of the final assignment, important in a 3,000 word response that includes a brief literature review.

I found Amy’s presentation of nodes and activity in MOOCs very different from what I expected. As I consider MOOCs, I gravitate toward the technology that makes MOOCs possible as network nodes and activity. It’s this focus on non-human members of the network that I especially appreciate about ANT. I found Amy’s focus on the pedagogical theory and human agents as nodes an interesting and useful boundary for her discussion. Ultimately, each of us seeks a boundary within which to develop a coherent theoretical application to our object of study. Amy’s boundary differs from the boundary I would choose, but that difference tells us something about our individual network and rhetorical experiences. It also makes class-sourced collaborative models of theoretical applications to networks more valuable, in my mind, to scholarship and to pedagogical outcomes. I have a sneaking suspicion that the two instructors are of the same mind in this conclusion.

la leche league logo

My La Leche League cake. Drawn in buttercreme: Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Sondra

Jenny’s focus on ordering nodes in her outline was also unexpected. Throughout this semester, probably starting with Vatz, I’ve gravitated away from applying frameworks to theories (my tabular outline an obvious contradiction, alas). I’ve willed myself to avoid imposing order on the theoretical chaos in my head. Jenny’s outline was a refreshing shift, but one important aspect I noticed was that each “ordering” of nodes was dependent on the individual theory. Instead of using a set of common criteria (like my use of the assignment questions) by which to compare and contrast theoretical stances, she developed individual criteria for comparison based on her summarized analysis of the theories themselves. Doing so likely required more effort than a standardized set of comparison criteria, but the result is that she likely has a much clearer handle on each of the theorists’ main ideas as they relate to her object of study.

In both cases, I learned from each interpretation of the assignment. My “meta” moment has less to do with the theories or their application to objects of study and more to do with each of our different executions of the assignment itself. From a pedagogical standpoint, multiple interpretations of an assignment are difficult to assess in a rubric, but they better reflect many of our theorists’ perspectives on the importance of difference in discursive formation. That’s an important lesson for my own pedagogy.

References

Van Ittersum, D., & Ching, K. L. (2013). Composing text / Shaping process: How digital environments mediate writing activity [Webtext]. Computers and Composition: An International Journal. Retrieved from http://www2.bgsu.edu/departments/english/cconline/composing_text/webtext/chat.html

Lock, A. (2014, March 3). ENGL894 Locklear case study 2 outline [Google doc, outline].

Moore, J. (2014, March 2). Exploring the flow of information in LLL via rhetorical situation and genre theory [Google doc, outline].

[Top Image: Mediated by Microsoft Word. Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Erik Eckel]

Reading Notes: L’hypertext et Latour d’ANT (part 1)

Finding common ground in this week’s disparate readings was difficult. More precisely, Latour’s introduction to actor-network-theory (ANT) had almost nothing to do with reading from Joyce and Johnson-Eilola, other than the fact that hypertext as object might be an instantiated mediator within a collective. More precisely, the hypertext itself may function as a trace of the collective, with actors including codewriters, narrative writers, software, hardware, network connections, and other elements required to read and interact with a hypertextual “document.”

With little common ground to try to synthesize, I’ll opt this week to omit summary and focus on key concepts, quotes, and course connections. Who knows, I might surprise myself by writing into something else, too!

What bothered my about readings by Joyce (1995, 2001) and Johnson-Eilola (1997) were how dated they felt. Hypertext theory interested me in the nascent moments of the World Wide Web (but never in its software-bound forms like Hypercard), and I admit to being among those who unproblematically accepted the coming glory of reader-as-author perusing a unique user-generated text with each browsing session. That said, I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane as a reminder of how far we’ve come — and, in some troubling ways, how little of hypertext’s socially active potential we’ve tapped. (I’m self-censoring based on reading Latour and concerned about using the word “social” ever again.)

Of Two Minds

In Joyce’s (1995) Of Two Minds I enjoyed this blast from my thesis past:

“At each stage of the developing consensus about these shifts [in conceptualizing hypertexts], new and sometimes contradictory definitions of hypertext have been advanced. Even so, a remarkably consistent line of thinking holds that hypertext in some sense represents the workings of the human mind…. [S]cholars continue to suggest forebearers of hypertext ranging from the Greeks to Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and beyond…” (p. 22)

book cover

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne

I am indebted to those scholars who saw in Tristram Shandy a forebearer of hypertext. In my master’s thesis, I advocated Tristram Shandy as a non-linear prototype of hypertext that responded directly to Locke’s aversion to “association of ideas” (non-rational thinking) as presented in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In 1998 when I wrote my thesis, I was intrigued by the potential of hypertext as both a pedagogical tool and a representation of human thought. My thesis in fact addresses some of the aspects of reader-as-author of hypertext narrative, although only superficially. In my abstract, I present the claim this way:

“I review Tristram’s self-expression by focusing on techniques of non-linear narration and conclude by examining hypermedia as an alternative model for narrating consciousness that emphasizes the reader, comparing hypermedia’s reader to Tristram Shandy’s narrator.” (Hocutt 1998, n.p., emphasis added)

“Narrating consciousness” was surely a bit much, but I found useful parallels using Tristram Shandy’s narrator as my object of study in application of hypermedia theory.

I’m marveling at a recommendation Dr. Dan Richards made during last Friday’s “Curating Online Identity” workshop focused on LinkedIn and academia.edu. He recommended including older, even incomplete, lines of inquiry and scholarship among papers and presentations we uploaded to academia.edu because one never knows how a chance encounter in previous research may come back around through the social network of scholarly collaboration. And then on Friday night I read Joyce’s words above. Serendipity. Or the instantiation of an ANT collective that included actors Dr. Richards, Tristram Shandy and Tristram Shandy, a dead Laurence Sterne, members of the RSODU attending the workshop, Webex, and the computer terminals and network hardware and software than enabled my presence from a distance. Either way, I’m sold. The thesis gets a place in my academia.edu profile.

In the same chapter of Of Two Minds, I recognized what I termed “an interestingly prescient moment” in my professional life. Joyce writes of early warnings posted about the potential for hypertext to be co-opted by commercial interests if scholars did not problematize its exaggerated claim to renegotiate the definition of author:

“While not rejecting this promise [of hypertext as destroyer of the objective either/or paradigm], Stuart Moulthrop, in a prolific series of essays… has argued that hypertext could be pre-empted by the “military infotainment establishment” or offered as a diversion to a dissatisfied society in lieu of real access or power.” (p. 26)

I wrote this note to myself after reading that statement: “An interesting prescient moment? My professional role [as Web Manager] is to convert what was once considered an egalitarian tool for social change into a diversion provided by the infotainment industry. Well, maybe not that bad, but it’s an uncomfortable parallel.” It is uncomfortable. One important result of reading this week on a tool with which I am intimately familiar is to make me uncomfortable with unproblematically making one hypermediated page after another in a fairly large, fairly comprehensive website. What agencies do I too readily take for myself that should be left to the visitor? More to the point, what visitor agencies do my creative efforts omit or deem meaningless or powerless as I design information architectures and implement wayfinding options? What political boundaries and/or economic realities am I activating or exacerbating, for better or for worse, in my professional role? These are questions that I’m beginning to ask of myself, my tools, and my job.

Nostalgic Angels

dust jacket image

Trickster in Contemporary Film by Helena Bassil-Morozow

In Johnson-Eilola’s (1997) Nostalgic Angels I found interesting connections to another scholarly interest, the trickster in culture. One aspect of what Helena Basil-Morozov (2012) calls the “trickster principle” is its occupation of border areas, or liminal spaces. Trickster inhabits liminal space, breaking through boundaries established by culture and ritual in order to activate or introduce change and creation. “The activity of questioning and remaking borders in relation to real cultural conditions” (Johnson-Eilola, 1997. p. 16) sounds a good deal like trickster work, and hypertext has most assuredly served a trickster function of breaking through boundaries and ushering in change. Johnson-Eilola’s descriptions of boundary crossing, while quite tricksterish, also resonates with Bazerman’s (2004) activity systems and Popham’s (2005) boundary genre:

“What a hypertextual structure and process can bring to this discussion is the ability to cross discursive boundaries in an attempt to articulate the discrete, largely isolated and invisible activities of using a functional document to learn a system with the intersubjective activities of discussion and group critique.” (Johnson-Eilola, 1997, p. 227)

Crossing discursive boundaries requires genre tracing (a la Spinuzzi, 2003) through an activity system and understanding the unique aspects of boundary genres that enable understanding of disparate discourses. Hypertextual structure (by which I’d suggest Johnson-Eilola was defining what is now known as a group-sourced wiki) encompasses these several theoretical models as a boundary genre.

Othermindedness

I found Joyce’s (2001) Othermindedness a little, well, otherminded. The text lacked a certain scholarly tone, but the result was accessible, if dated and difficult to resolve with the author of Of Two Minds. However, I found this prescient nugget in which Joyce predicts what we now know to be true: that the ability to navigate search in the digital age is far more important than the ability to recall facts and data.

“The value of what we collect [knowledge] is not as much embodied in what it is as in how we found it and why we keep it.” (Joyce, 2001, p. 73, emphasis added)

When I make the decision to use Google as my search engine of choice, what mediating choices have I made about what’s available to me and how? When I add a citation to my research collection using Zotero, what information have I included about how and why I conducted the search and why the source is important in the context of that search? These have become questions that are more important to me, especially in the early stages of research, than what the source actually says. Being able to recreate the search is vital to scholars and to those who follow our research; documenting the terms and scope of the search (and the political and social mediating decisions made along the way) are becoming of utmost importance to me as a digital scholar.

Reassembling the Social

Latour (2005) owes a debt of gratitude to Foucault, among others, whose ideas are clearly represented in ANT. “Trace” is one of the main Foucaultian concepts that Latour repeats regularly, and I believe he uses trace in the same way as Foucault to represent what’s left from a discursive formation. Here, Latour refers to group formation leaving traces, although I’d suggest these group formations have many similarities to Foucault’s discursive formations:

“Group formations leave many more traces in their wake than already established connections which, by definition, might remain mute and invisible.” (Latour, 2005, p. 31)

These group formations must be active to leave traces, and such activity matches Foucault’s insistence that discursive formations be systems of division or dispersion among statements (Foucault, 2010/1972, p. 38).

Another similarity to Foucault is Latour’s unwillingness to allow social science a “real” or typical society (to which all others are considered inferior or unreal).

“[E]verything happens as if social scientists had to claim that there exists “out there” one type that is real, whereas the other sets are all really inauthentic, obsolete, irrelevant, or artificial.” (Latour, 2005, p. 28)

In this statement I recognize Foucault’s unwillingness to allow the history of ideas to consider either some original ideal from which all ideas are descended or some ultimate idea to which all ideas ascend. Both Foucault and Latour engage in relativistic understandings of ideas and societies, in which meaning is found in differentiated relationships among statements (Foucault) or among groups (Latour). 

References

Bazerman, C. (2004). Speech acts, genres, and activity systems: How texts organize activities and people. In Bazerman & Prior (Eds.), What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices (pp. 309-340). New York, NY: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (2010). The archaeology of knowledge and the discourse on language. (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books. (Original work published in 1972)

Hocutt, D. (1998). “A tolerable straight line”: Non-linear narrative in Tristram Shandy [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Richmond, VA: University of Richmond.

Johnson-Eilola, J. (1997). Nostalgic angels: Rearticulating hypertext writing. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 3-28; 135-242. New Directions in Computers and Composition Studies

Joyce, M. T. (1995). Of two minds: Hypertext pedagogy and poetics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 20-29. Studies in Literature and Science

Joyce, M. T. (2001). Othermindedness: The emergence of network culture. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 67-106. Studies in Literature and Science

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies

Bassil-Morozow, H. (2012). The trickster in contemporary film. East Sussex, UK: Routledge.

Popham, S. L. (2005). Forms as boundary genres in medicine, science, and business. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 19(3), 279-303. doi:10.1177/1050651905275624

Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: a sociocultural approach to information design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

[Image, top of page. Leaf Cutter Ants, Butterfly World, Chiswell Green, Near St Albans, Herts. Image from Flickr user Stuart Spicer. Ants (and rope and leaves) are the actors in this ANT visualization.]

Reading Notes: L’hypertext et Latour d’ANT (part 1)

Finding common ground in this week’s disparate readings was difficult. More precisely, Latour’s introduction to actor-network-theory (ANT) had almost nothing to do with reading from Joyce and Johnson-Eilola, other than the fact that hypertext as object might be an instantiated mediator within a collective. More precisely, the hypertext itself may function as a trace of the collective, with actors including codewriters, narrative writers, software, hardware, network connections, and other elements required to read and interact with a hypertextual “document.”

With little common ground to try to synthesize, I’ll opt this week to omit summary and focus on key concepts, quotes, and course connections. Who knows, I might surprise myself by writing into something else, too!

What bothered my about readings by Joyce (1995, 2001) and Johnson-Eilola (1997) were how dated they felt. Hypertext theory interested me in the nascent moments of the World Wide Web (but never in its software-bound forms like Hypercard), and I admit to being among those who unproblematically accepted the coming glory of reader-as-author perusing a unique user-generated text with each browsing session. That said, I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane as a reminder of how far we’ve come — and, in some troubling ways, how little of hypertext’s socially active potential we’ve tapped. (I’m self-censoring based on reading Latour and concerned about using the word “social” ever again.)

Of Two Minds

In Joyce’s (1995) Of Two Minds I enjoyed this blast from my thesis past:

“At each stage of the developing consensus about these shifts [in conceptualizing hypertexts], new and sometimes contradictory definitions of hypertext have been advanced. Even so, a remarkably consistent line of thinking holds that hypertext in some sense represents the workings of the human mind…. [S]cholars continue to suggest forebearers of hypertext ranging from the Greeks to Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and beyond…” (p. 22)

book cover

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne

I am indebted to those scholars who saw in Tristram Shandy a forebearer of hypertext. In my master’s thesis, I advocated Tristram Shandy as a non-linear prototype of hypertext that responded directly to Locke’s aversion to “association of ideas” (non-rational thinking) as presented in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In 1998 when I wrote my thesis, I was intrigued by the potential of hypertext as both a pedagogical tool and a representation of human thought. My thesis in fact addresses some of the aspects of reader-as-author of hypertext narrative, although only superficially. In my abstract, I present the claim this way:

“I review Tristram’s self-expression by focusing on techniques of non-linear narration and conclude by examining hypermedia as an alternative model for narrating consciousness that emphasizes the reader, comparing hypermedia’s reader to Tristram Shandy’s narrator.” (Hocutt 1998, n.p., emphasis added)

“Narrating consciousness” was surely a bit much, but I found useful parallels using Tristram Shandy’s narrator as my object of study in application of hypermedia theory.

I’m marveling at a recommendation Dr. Dan Richards made during last Friday’s “Curating Online Identity” workshop focused on LinkedIn and academia.edu. He recommended including older, even incomplete, lines of inquiry and scholarship among papers and presentations we uploaded to academia.edu because one never knows how a chance encounter in previous research may come back around through the social network of scholarly collaboration. And then on Friday night I read Joyce’s words above. Serendipity. Or the instantiation of an ANT collective that included actors Dr. Richards, Tristram Shandy and Tristram Shandy, a dead Laurence Sterne, members of the RSODU attending the workshop, Webex, and the computer terminals and network hardware and software than enabled my presence from a distance. Either way, I’m sold. The thesis gets a place in my academia.edu profile.

In the same chapter of Of Two Minds, I recognized what I termed “an interestingly prescient moment” in my professional life. Joyce writes of early warnings posted about the potential for hypertext to be co-opted by commercial interests if scholars did not problematize its exaggerated claim to renegotiate the definition of author:

“While not rejecting this promise [of hypertext as destroyer of the objective either/or paradigm], Stuart Moulthrop, in a prolific series of essays… has argued that hypertext could be pre-empted by the “military infotainment establishment” or offered as a diversion to a dissatisfied society in lieu of real access or power.” (p. 26)

I wrote this note to myself after reading that statement: “An interesting prescient moment? My professional role [as Web Manager] is to convert what was once considered an egalitarian tool for social change into a diversion provided by the infotainment industry. Well, maybe not that bad, but it’s an uncomfortable parallel.” It is uncomfortable. One important result of reading this week on a tool with which I am intimately familiar is to make me uncomfortable with unproblematically making one hypermediated page after another in a fairly large, fairly comprehensive website. What agencies do I too readily take for myself that should be left to the visitor? More to the point, what visitor agencies do my creative efforts omit or deem meaningless or powerless as I design information architectures and implement wayfinding options? What political boundaries and/or economic realities am I activating or exacerbating, for better or for worse, in my professional role? These are questions that I’m beginning to ask of myself, my tools, and my job.

Nostalgic Angels

dust jacket image

Trickster in Contemporary Film by Helena Bassil-Morozow

In Johnson-Eilola’s (1997) Nostalgic Angels I found interesting connections to another scholarly interest, the trickster in culture. One aspect of what Helena Basil-Morozov (2012) calls the “trickster principle” is its occupation of border areas, or liminal spaces. Trickster inhabits liminal space, breaking through boundaries established by culture and ritual in order to activate or introduce change and creation. “The activity of questioning and remaking borders in relation to real cultural conditions” (Johnson-Eilola, 1997. p. 16) sounds a good deal like trickster work, and hypertext has most assuredly served a trickster function of breaking through boundaries and ushering in change. Johnson-Eilola’s descriptions of boundary crossing, while quite tricksterish, also resonates with Bazerman’s (2004) activity systems and Popham’s (2005) boundary genre:

“What a hypertextual structure and process can bring to this discussion is the ability to cross discursive boundaries in an attempt to articulate the discrete, largely isolated and invisible activities of using a functional document to learn a system with the intersubjective activities of discussion and group critique.” (Johnson-Eilola, 1997, p. 227)

Crossing discursive boundaries requires genre tracing (a la Spinuzzi, 2003) through an activity system and understanding the unique aspects of boundary genres that enable understanding of disparate discourses. Hypertextual structure (by which I’d suggest Johnson-Eilola was defining what is now known as a group-sourced wiki) encompasses these several theoretical models as a boundary genre.

Othermindedness

I found Joyce’s (2001) Othermindedness a little, well, otherminded. The text lacked a certain scholarly tone, but the result was accessible, if dated and difficult to resolve with the author of Of Two Minds. However, I found this prescient nugget in which Joyce predicts what we now know to be true: that the ability to navigate search in the digital age is far more important than the ability to recall facts and data.

“The value of what we collect [knowledge] is not as much embodied in what it is as in how we found it and why we keep it.” (Joyce, 2001, p. 73, emphasis added)

When I make the decision to use Google as my search engine of choice, what mediating choices have I made about what’s available to me and how? When I add a citation to my research collection using Zotero, what information have I included about how and why I conducted the search and why the source is important in the context of that search? These have become questions that are more important to me, especially in the early stages of research, than what the source actually says. Being able to recreate the search is vital to scholars and to those who follow our research; documenting the terms and scope of the search (and the political and social mediating decisions made along the way) are becoming of utmost importance to me as a digital scholar.

Reassembling the Social

Latour (2005) owes a debt of gratitude to Foucault, among others, whose ideas are clearly represented in ANT. “Trace” is one of the main Foucaultian concepts that Latour repeats regularly, and I believe he uses trace in the same way as Foucault to represent what’s left from a discursive formation. Here, Latour refers to group formation leaving traces, although I’d suggest these group formations have many similarities to Foucault’s discursive formations:

“Group formations leave many more traces in their wake than already established connections which, by definition, might remain mute and invisible.” (Latour, 2005, p. 31)

These group formations must be active to leave traces, and such activity matches Foucault’s insistence that discursive formations be systems of division or dispersion among statements (Foucault, 2010/1972, p. 38).

Another similarity to Foucault is Latour’s unwillingness to allow social science a “real” or typical society (to which all others are considered inferior or unreal).

“[E]verything happens as if social scientists had to claim that there exists “out there” one type that is real, whereas the other sets are all really inauthentic, obsolete, irrelevant, or artificial.” (Latour, 2005, p. 28)

In this statement I recognize Foucault’s unwillingness to allow the history of ideas to consider either some original ideal from which all ideas are descended or some ultimate idea to which all ideas ascend. Both Foucault and Latour engage in relativistic understandings of ideas and societies, in which meaning is found in differentiated relationships among statements (Foucault) or among groups (Latour). 

References

Bazerman, C. (2004). Speech acts, genres, and activity systems: How texts organize activities and people. In Bazerman & Prior (Eds.), What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices (pp. 309-340). New York, NY: Routledge.

Foucault, M. (2010). The archaeology of knowledge and the discourse on language. (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books. (Original work published in 1972)

Hocutt, D. (1998). “A tolerable straight line”: Non-linear narrative in Tristram Shandy [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Richmond, VA: University of Richmond.

Johnson-Eilola, J. (1997). Nostalgic angels: Rearticulating hypertext writing. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 3-28; 135-242. New Directions in Computers and Composition Studies

Joyce, M. T. (1995). Of two minds: Hypertext pedagogy and poetics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 20-29. Studies in Literature and Science

Joyce, M. T. (2001). Othermindedness: The emergence of network culture. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 67-106. Studies in Literature and Science

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies

Bassil-Morozow, H. (2012). The trickster in contemporary film. East Sussex, UK: Routledge.

Popham, S. L. (2005). Forms as boundary genres in medicine, science, and business. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 19(3), 279-303. doi:10.1177/1050651905275624

Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: a sociocultural approach to information design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

[Image, top of page. Leaf Cutter Ants, Butterfly World, Chiswell Green, Near St Albans, Herts. Image from Flickr user Stuart Spicer. Ants (and rope and leaves) are the actors in this ANT visualization.]

Reading Notes #6: Let’s CHAT

What is Chat? The discussion of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) led me into a crazy game of connect the dots. I am not sure what the final image will be, but I am making connections. CHAT is a synthesis of concepts from a variety of different disciplines and sub-disciplines. The authors argue that “CHAT rejects […]

Peer Reviews for Case Study #1

For the first Case Study peer review, I responded to Summer’s case study on World of Warcraft (WoW) and Suzanne’s case study on Underground Press Syndicate (UPS). Summer’s case study used Bazerman’s theory of speech acts and human activity to examine the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game World of Wordcraft (WoW). Summer’s study was interesting […]

Peer Reviews for Cast Study #1

For this week, I responded to Maury’s case study on a Foucauldian study of LARPing and Suzanne’s application of Genre Theory to the Underground Press Syndicate. I loved reading Maury’s case study because LARPing offers such a parallel and yet such a distinction to video games, especially in terms of human spontaneity. As I was reading her unraveling of the relationships between the nodes of  playable character- non-playable character -Game Master – system – mechanics, there was definitely the sense that there is always a system in play of human activity that builds a discourse in itself. I really liked Maury’s analogy of the different kinds of trees, with her idea that LARPing was more like a Tree of Life with a cycle whereas Foucault’s was a branching tree with leaves. Her entry gave me a new perspective as it was a practical application of Foucault, which made his concepts much easier (if not completely clear) to understand. I enjoyed looking at the thought process she had going on as she was designing diagrams that evolved as she started to unpack her own analysis and application.

Suzanne’s entry was especially enlightening as the intersections between the different Genre theorists we have read in class. Reading her work made me wonder about how I could deepen my own case study regarding World of Warcraft and the different kinds of genres and artifacts are being created when there really are no traditional texts in play in a virtual game. Her entry was also very insightful because I was introduced to the Underground Press Syndicate (something I had never stumbled on before) and the socio-cultural factors that went into play for its birth, continuance, and later its dissolution. I liked reading about the networks within the UPS and outwards towards other media outlets, its creation of artifacts and why those artifacts were so historically and culturally packed, and how the changing of technology and societal frames finally made the UPS outdated.

After reading bother Maury and Suzanne’s entries, I wonder what a diagram of the network of WoW guilds would look like on both a game-local and game-global level. Would it include relationships among the players? Relationships among the guilds? Relationships among the guilds among the different servers? Would it be before guild perks were introduced? Only explore after guild perk emergence? Would it include before and after? I think doing each of these and connecting the diagrams slowly would be an insightful project (though extensive) because then I could then trace how players gain agency and to what extent they are permitted agency within their own guilds and the game at large. But, that would be for another day (or week…or month).

Every Review Deserves a Breakaway:


Mind Map: Week 5

Adding Spinuzzi this week, I began to see overlaps rather than contradictions. Even though last week was one of the Mind Maps to drop for me, I also added in a node for Bazerman as I saw a connection between his the felicity conditions he described and Foucault’s historical a priori that I didn’t want to forget.

Although not exactly the same, I do think there are similarities between Spinuzzi’s genre ecology (system of genres) and Foucault’s concepts of archive (“the general system of the formation and transformation of statements”) and tree of enunciative derivation (“at its base are statements that put into operation rules of formation in their most extended form; at the summit, and after a number of branchings, are the statements that put into operation at the same regularity, but one more delicately articulated, more clearly delimited and localized in its extension”). While genre ecology and archive seem to both encompass the system as a whole, the tree seems to correlate with Spinuzzi’s three levels of activity within the system just as the tree describes levels within the archive.

Additionally, Foucault’s methodology of tracing seems closely related to Spinuzzi’s, although Spinuzzi identifies a more systematic approach. Both emphasize the importance of understanding the historical and cultural/disciplinary roots of discourse/genre (which also relates to Popham’s boundary objects).

Finally, I noted a connection between Foucault’s concept of discontinuity and Spinuzzi’s destablization. Again, both identify these as places of interruption–places that indicate the importance of understanding the various levels at play.

The embedded function doesn’t seem to be working for me tonight, so here is a link to the updated version: Popplet Mind Map


Reflections on Case Study #1: Responding to Chvonne and Summer

I enjoyed reading Chvonne’s blog about Snapchat and Summer’s blog about MMOs (specifically WoW).

For her case study, Chvonne applied mostly Bitzer’s theory of the rhetorical situation to Snapchat, focusing on how an event serves as the exigence for the Snapchat and how meaning is created primarily by the author of the Snapchat (interpretation of the event).

In her case study, Summer applied Bazerman’s theory of genres to World of Warcraft (WoW), focusing players’s conformity to guild social rules and norms as “social facts” and interactions as speech acts.

Considering these two analyses together makes me think about how meaning is created in different theories of networks. From Chvonne’s example of Snapchat and Bitzer’s theory, meaning seems to be created by the individual (I’d argue that it’s both the author of the Snapchat AND the audience-turned-author in response who create meaning in this application). Meaning is manipulated by individuals as they respond to the exigence. In contrast, Summer’s application of genre theory situates meaning as culturally-negotiated as party of the social system. Members of the network create the rhetorical situation and, thereby, the standards and norms of the network. Bazerman’s concepts of locutionary and illocutionary acts and perlocutionary effects account for the negotiations between the individuals that Bitzer’s theory neglects.

Summer’s application of genre theory stirred me to think about the next case study and how I might begin to apply Bazerman’s concepts to my own Object of Study. If we consider the field of writing centers as a (global) social system in which individual writing centers create their own (local) social systems, we can begin to consider how the social facts of the global system not only dictate the speech acts of but are also transformed by the local systems.


MindMap: 18 Feb.

Mind Map: http://popplet.com/app/#/1571354 This last week’s introduction to Spinuzzi created all sorts of unifying connections to the Popplet! And yet… The trouble is, I have been thinking that now is the time to integrate a 3-D element.  I had been … Continue reading

Case Study #1: To the Guild Network, I Present a Bazerman

Image hosted in article "Drama Mamas: How to find a World of Warcraft guild" on Joystiq's WoW Insider

Image hosted in article “Drama Mamas: How to find a World of Warcraft guild” on Joystiq’s WoW Insider

In the worlds of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, there can be two levels of networks in regards to guilds: on a game-global level (I make this specification because some games are actually global, with players from around the world joining in on different servers), the guilds themselves are part of a larger network as they compete against one another, and on a game-local level, the members in each guild represent nodes in their particular guild network. For this particular Case Study, I am going to be dealing with the game-local level in relation to World of Warcraft (WoW) as I best understand the framework of the game, and members have quite a bit of support in-game and out-of-game with the creation of, acceptance into/experience within, and dissolution of guilds. The concepts within Charles Bazerman’s chapter “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People” provide interesting insight into how members of guilds become part of the mini-societies within gameworlds, especially in WoW, through the speech acts and social facts that emerge through player-player interaction.

Bazerman’s theory of speech acts and systems of human activity can define the local level of MMO guilds through interactions between players and the cohesion and disruption felt once those interactions begin to collect into trends and movements. What makes guilds in virtual environments so interesting is that players conform to rules and norms much as they would in the “real world,” which is an idea that plays into the concept of “social facts” that Bazerman describes as “those things people believe to be true, and therefore bear on how they define a situation” (312). In order for the guild to work, players have to agree on certain organizational methods (usually in the form of hierarchies based on player rankings, group goals like raids or more storytelling play styles, and newer members being linked with mentors), or else the guild divides and falls apart. Guilds themselves can have very fluid hierarchies, as players establish themselves and gain rank, or as other players drop out of the guild or the game for a variety of reasons (work, family, school, injuries, financial issues, and so on). Much like “real world” groups, communication styles in guilds differ, but tend to be two-way as members offer suggestions for how to approach a particular raid, where to find the best armor, and what strategies are useful against specific creatures or bosses.

As a whole, these gamers generally agree on ideas like ranks as rightfully earned, that (most of the time) there should be a leader (or leaders) for raids and for the guild itself, and that the guild is a space worth joining. These agreements, or disagreements, come to define how the system works: are the raiding teams cohesive? Is there in-fighting among guild members? Is the guild strictly run or does the Guild Master encourage a more laissez faire style? Are newer players mentored by more seasoned players, or are they expected to learn on their own? The atmosphere of the group is determined by the group and the norms to which players are willing to submit, whether it is through explicit agreement or a quiet submission (though most gamers can be fairly vocal when they disagree or feel they are being treated unfairly).

Example of a "guild window" from WoW. Image hosted on WikiHow.

Example of a “guild window” from WoW. Image hosted on WikiHow.

Almost all of the interaction between players is done through speech acts, whether verbal or written. Players can either found their own guild or seek one out (through in-game means or through forums) that has already been established, and then gain acceptance into that guild (with a growing trend of actually having to file an application, especially for the more prestigious guilds). Once in a guild, players find that they have a balance of how much agency they can have within the group. Their abilities and experience define what role(s) they may play when raiding (tank, damage per second also known as dps, or healer), but the player can choose to hone skills that would give them access to other roles or make them more desirable as a combat buddy. Guild members can contact other members through the guild window (displayed above and below) for small raiding parties, or they may choose to join in larger raids (though stricter guilds demand players be present or they may be kicked out of the guild), and loot tends to be shared among players, with certain pieces being set aside for players trying to finish an armor set or guild officers being allowed first pick. For guilds that are more story-based, players have the chance to introduce origin stories for their characters, drawing on the mythology set up by the game creators, which allows players to carve out a space for themselves in the gameworld and establish their character as a more three-dimensional entity within the world and the group.

Each guild window includes a roster of members, which include options for each member to contact another member or to leave the guild altogether. Image hosted on WikiHow

Each guild window includes a roster of members, which include options for each member to contact another member or to leave the guild altogether. Image hosted on WikiHow

As social networks, guilds in WoW are the embodiment of communication technologies. While players initially had to depend on keyboard chats in order to communicate with other players, advancements in technology have opened the way for players to chat over headphones and now remote chats on cell phones. Players also communicate using official forums, through emails and phone calls, and may utilize websites like WoW Guild Hosting to stay in touch. One of the major motivations for a strong communication network within the guild is to prepare for and execute raids that require larger numbers of people. While there can be unexpected obstacles, guild and raid leaders focus on ensuring that members of raid groups understand their roles and the strategy the guild has decided on. Breakdowns in communication can be disastrous, ending with entire teams being slaughtered in more difficult dungeons (any experienced WoW player will shudder and laugh at the Leeroy Jenkins incident).

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Doing well in raids and as a guild altogether has gained greater importance with the introduction of Guild Perks, moving from player motivation for guild banks (which is in-game storage) to actual competition to have and be included in a higher level guild. Guild perks, as defined by WoW Wiki, are “special benefits received when a guild reaches a particular guild level and the corresponding guild achievement.” This new dynamic of perks into the guild network has altered how WoW is played, with most players now belonging to a guild instead of traversing the world alone or with a companion/small group. Players come to be defined by what network they belong to, finding safety and prestige in being a connected node instead of a solitary adventurer.

Remote WoW guild chats on an android phone. Image hosted on Curse.

Remote WoW guild chats on an android phone. Image hosted on Curse.

Bazerman’s theory of speech acts allows me to look at how guild members become enough of a collective to create their own mini-society in a virtual space, which becomes even more interesting in light of the fact that these players may never meet in real life, are coming together based on common goals, and are being judged based on merit, personality, and design choices represented by their avatars’ appearances and classes. His theory is helpful in that it looks at how players’ interactions through speech acts start to create movements in the guild itself, helping to establish boundaries between players, norms for the group to follow as a whole, and can also bring about the dissolution of the guild. Though interaction between players is done through speech acts, Bazerman’s theories of genre, felicity conditions, and typification would help to define how the kinds of communication players have to enrich the game experience and ensure the success of their guilds.

To Make This Quest Just a Little Easier:

Works Cited

Bazerman, Charles. ”Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People.” What Writing Does and How It Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. Charles Bazerman and Paul Prior. (Eds.). London: Routledge, 2004. 309-340[PDF]

WoW Wiki. Wikia, n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2014.


Reading Notes: A New Spinuzzi on Genre

Summary

This is a book about operationalizing understandings of genre. Spinuzzi is interested in practical, user-friendly applications of genre theory and activity theory in professional contexts. He introduces genre tracing as a methodology “for studying these ephemeral, invisible, ubiquitous innovations” (p. x) — workplace innovations, practical solutions to work-a-day problems that arise in an organization. He pits genre tracing methodology against what he calls “fieldwork-to-formalization methods” of information design: centralized, idealized methods he critiques for the way they pair “abstract work models” with “divergent local practices” to develop user-centered designs (p. 11). His goal is to develop organization-wide methods for information design that enable individual users to customize workflows and tasks in order to accomplish specific, localized objectives. Spinuzzi offers genre tracing as the methodology that can accomplish this goals, and three chapters of the text are devoted to an operationalized example of the methodology using traffic accident data recorded by the Iowa Department of Transportation. (Check out the current status of ALAS: SAVER - Safety, Analysis, Visualization and Exploration Resource & CMAT - Crash Mapping Analysis Tool.)

Scope and Context

Genre tracing is based on activity theory and genre theory. Its methods study “the dynamic tension of centripetal and centrifugal impulses” (p. 22) of workplace information design.

  • Centripetal impulses are centralized, generalized, official, and static methods and outcomes of information design, while centrifugal impulses are decentralized, localized, unofficial, and dynamic methods and outcomes of information design.
  • Centripetal forces generate official versions of information design that are expected to be followed in workflow development and management in localized offices, while centrifugal forces generate unofficial workarounds to generalized design that does not work effectively or efficiently in specific localized environments.

Spinuzzi claims that “genre tracing provides a way to highlight users’ experience with official and unofficial genres and to compare them across communities and workplaces” (p. 22). I visualized the relationship between centripetal and centrifugal impulses on a continuum, including Bakhtin’s (1981, 1986) ideas on centripetal impulses metaphorically drawing things inward and centrifugal impulses metaphorically flying away toward chaos.

Communication impulse visualization (diagram)

Google Drawing visualization of the communication continuum presented in Spinnuzi (2003, 20)

The central concern of Spinuzzi’s text and method is to avoid the pitfalls of “designer-as-rescuer” assumptions made in fieldwork-to-formalization user-centered design methods. Spinuzzi frames workers as innovators who develop genre- and hierarchy-crossing methods for solving problems of centralized information design. Spinuzzi develops an integrated research scope for examining localized workplace innovations in terms of three “layers”: activity, actions, and operations (p. 27). This integrated scope examines genre operations that coconstitute “cultural activities and goal-directed actions” (p. 27). This scope does not treat individual layers as a singular focus (a downfall he finds among most user-centered design methods, (p. 30)), but as “integrative perspectives” following concepts introduced by activity theorists Kari Kuutti and Liam Bannon (1991, 1993), among others (p. 29). Spinuzzi uses the terms macroscopic, microscopic, and mesoscopic to describe these three integrative layers that work together to coconstitute activity and actions (pp. 31-36). The macroscopic layer focuses on organizational activity systems (p. 31). The mesoscopic layer focuses on “the detailed tool-mediated structure of work” (p. 33), often related to how small groups and individuals execute routine tasks with specific tools. And the microscopic level focuses on operationalized actions, operations that “begin as conscious, goal-directed actions that are then operationalized or made automatic” (p. 34).

Spinuzzi’s theory builds on theories of genre as social, community action, as system and set, and as boundary and activity system presented by Bazerman (1994, 2004), Miller (1984, 1994), and Popham (2005) among others. He recognizes the important memory role genre plays in “traditions of producing, using, and interpreting artifacts, traditions that make their way into the artifact as ‘form-shaping ideology’” (Spinuzzi 2003, 41). Regarding the practical, active role genres play, Spinuzzi notes that “people develop genres so that they can accomplish activities. As those activities change, the genres also change” (p. 42). Bakhtin (1981, 1986) contributes much to the sense of genre as “remembering” the past; this concept of genre plays an important role in identifying significant issues that keep workers from accomplishing their goals using the tools provided by central authorities (Spinuzzi 2003, 42).

At each level, Spinuzzi addresses the tension between centripetal and centrifugal impulses by seeking system destablizations. At the macroscopic, or activity, level, Spinuzzi seeks contradictions between genre connections. At the mesoscopic, or action, level, he seeks discoordination within genres, groups, and/or tools. At the microscopic, or operation, level, he seeks breakdown in operationalized actions (p. 55). The rest of the text is an extended, detailed demonstration of the genre tracing methodology in action.

Analysis and Application

Spinuzzi’s genre tracing methodology is a time-consuming affair that requires a great deal of field research and data analysis. However, the results are remarkable in that they identify specific, microscopic breakdowns in workflow and operationalized action that need to be addressed by information design. The resulting analysis suggests specific ways in which user innovations that overcome breakdowns can be implemented at the macroscopic, mesoscopic, and microscopic levels. The analysis provides a remarkably cogent analysis of genre contradictions that occur between GIS-centered and database-centered information designs, one that capitalizes on Bakhtin and others’ understanding of genre as encoded memory and tradition in addition to methods and innovation. And the closing chapter’s recommendation of open system design seems positively prophetic in its prediction of designs that enable, even encourage, user innovation and alteration — I created a Google Map mashup a couple of days ago using Google Maps Engine, a relatively new tool that encourages localized (centrifugal) solutions built on the framework of the centralized (centripetal) system.

I found the reading enlightening and engaging, so engaging that I might recommend that members of my own team read and contemplate at least some of the chapters. The book offered remarkably cogent summaries of difficult concepts, like genre, activity theory, Bakhtin, and more. Page 41 starts a section on genre that’s positively enlightening. Bakhtin gets summarized in meaningful and highly useful ways in these pages and earlier (starting on page 20) too. Activity theory gets this tidy definition: “Activity theory posits that in every sphere of activity, collaborators use instruments to transform a particular object with a particular outcome in mind” (p. 37). There are traces of Miller and Bazerman in genre as activity and genre as system, along with traces of Popham in boundary genres. This text deserves a second read and more carefully taken notes that are searchable and scannable.

References

Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Austin, Tex: University of Minnesota Press.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speech genres and other late essays. Austin, Tex: University of Minnesota Press.

Bazerman, C. (1994). Systems of genre and the enactment of social intentions. In Freedman, A., & Medway, P. (Eds.), Genre and the new rhetoric (pp. 79-104). London, UK: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

Bazerman, C. (2004). Speech acts, genres, and activity systems: How texts organize activities and people. In Bazerman & Prior (Eds.), What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices (pp. 309-340). New York, NY: Routledge.

Miller, C. R. (1984). Genre as social action. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 70(2), 151-67.

Miller, C. R. (1994). Rhetorical community: The cultural basis of genre. In Freedman, A., & Medway, P. (Eds.), Genre and the new rhetoric (pp. 67-78). London, UK: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

Popham, S. L. (2005). Forms as boundary genres in medicine, science, and business. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 19(3), 279-303. doi:10.1177/1050651905275624

Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: a sociocultural approach to information design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

[Tracing Apple Genres: Apple Evolution Product (updated 2009). Creative Commons image from Flickr user Oswaldo Rubio]

MindMap Feb. 9: Genre Theory

http://popplet.com/app/#/1573463

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.