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Reading Notes: Ambient Rhetoric

Ambient Rhetoric rocked my world. It opened new paths of exploration and generally knocked me out of my growing comfort with network as a metaphor for rhetoric.

One idea in particular rocked me to my theoretical core, while a (what I thought to be) tenuous connection to trickster turned into some remarkable parallels between Rickert’s (2013) theory of rhetoric and what I’ll refer to as Hyde’s (1998/2010) trickster theory.

In chapter three, Rickert augments Mark C. Taylor’s description of the writer “caught in a network of complex, coadaptive threads that disrupt any sense of autonomy or boundary” with this mind-blowing claim: “a subject (rhetor, author, speaker, etc.) emerges as a node because of the network; the nodes do not exist prior to the network” (p. 104).

“The nodes do not exist prior to the network.”

Throughout the semester, I’ve thought of a collection of nodes constituting, initiating, pre-existing their network. I’ve thought of nodes collecting connections to create the network. But I’ve been plagued by questions of origin. If nodes precede the network, how do connections get made?

router cables - photo

Network. CC licensed image from Flickr user ken fager.

When I envision a network model, I think of an intranet or LAN. I think of the wires, the infrastructure, the framework that has to precede the connections. But I couldn’t figure out the relationship of the framework — the wireframe of switches and cables, of routers and hotspots — to the connections. I knew the connections initiated the network, but in the system I imagined, in which nodes preceded network, I couldn’t figure out what the framework represented. Rickert responded to my problem with this statement: “We might reflect back from networks the insight that ‘actuality’ was already networked, and the ‘new’ logistics of complexity we are learning are not so much new as disclosed differently to us. Inhabitancy, or dwelling, has always been networked…” (p. 102).

Without the framework, connections can’t be made. Without the framework, nodes can’t exist. Nodes can only exist once the framework is in place. “The nodes do not exist prior to the network.” The framework is the network, and the nodes exist only in relationship to the network. Applying this statement to my object of study, Google Analytics, suggests that the user, visit, and session dimensions I measure with metrics via the Google Analytics data model through the activities of collection, collation, processing, and report are already always networked and existing, and that, further, aspects of these measurements are withdrawn from human understanding for future discovery as already existing network qualities. In short, Google Analytics as a network is simply the best understanding we have of user relationship with websites. We will push the boundaries, embrace the chaos of discovery, and learn more about these network qualities as time passes.

Blows my mind.

And then there’s the trickster. Hyde (1998/2010) uses coyote trickster as a model of trickster behavior and suggests trickster follows a “no way” way — without specific instinctive habits, trickster coyote learns all its “ways” of being through trial and error and mimicry (pp. 42-3). I found in Ambient Rhetoric an analogous recognition of a “third way” that helps break rhetoric out of constricting binaries. For example, Rickert (2013) writes that new media writing, or Ulmer’s electracy, “is choric in that it too is a third kind, following but neither process from nor a hybrid of orality and literacy” (p. 68, emphasis added). Later, Rickert describes Latour’s actants as hybrid entities, influenced by Heiddegar and Harman, “the jointure of the two [that] creates a new relationship and in so doing transforms person and gun into a singular actant with new capabilities, a ‘hybrid actor,’ and these capabilities in turn affect relations to others” (p. 205). The concept of a third way that is “neither process from nor a hybrid of” a binary opposition parallels Hyde’s (1998/2010) statements about coyote’s “no way”: “Whoever has no way but is a successful imitator will have, in the end, a repertoire of ways” and “Perhaps having no way also means that a creature can adapt itself to a changing world” (p. 43) and “Having no way, trickster can have many ways” (p. 45). Rickert frames ambient rhetoric like Hyde frames coyote trickster: as a way to escape restrictive binaries and forge a new way in the world.

As I read Hyde and understand trickster, Rickert’s ambient theory parallels trickster theory in its desire to reveal (and revel in) complexity. Trickster “disrupts the mundane and the conventional to reveal no higher law, no hidden truth, but rather the plenitude and complexity of this world” (Hyde, 1998/2010, p. 289). Ambient rhetoric seeks to move beyond the complexity of the network metaphor, to “proceed via ecological relations of tension, balance, and flow” (Rickert, 2010, p. 129) and make a “further addition, a complexification, centered on ambience” (p. 128) to the network metaphor. Both of these statement point not toward adding complexity, but to revealing existing complexity in the world.

And this connection, between trickster theory and network theory, I could never have imagined. It, too, is revealed by attunement to ambience.

References

Hyde, L. (2010). Trickster makes this world: Mischief, myth, and art. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Original work published 1998)

Rickert, T. (2013). Ambient rhetoric: The attunements of rhetorical being. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

[ Feature image: Management of Complexity: Visualization. CC licensed image from Flickr user Michael Heiss ]

Reading Notes: Althusser and Hall

What Althusser (1971) refers to as “the ideology of the ruling class” (emphasis mine), become the ruling ideology “by the installation of the ISAs [Ideological State Apparatuses]” is analogous to Hall’s (1973/2007) “dominant-hegemonic position” (emphasis mine) set in place by the metacode “which the professional broadcasters assume when encoding a message which has already been signified in a hegemonic manner” (p. 485, emphasis original). What Althusser abstracts as ISAs, Hall particularizes in the form of television broadcasters.

Althusser (1971) identifies school as the dominant ISA: “the Church has been replaced today in its role as the dominant Ideological State Apparatus by the School. It is coupled with the Family just as the Church was once coupled with the Family.” As dominant ISA, School functions by ideology, “the system of the ideas and representations which dominate the mind of a man or a social group.” This statement more clearly delineates the connection between Althusser’s ideology and Hall’s dominant-hegemonic position. Hall (1973/2007) notes that, in many cases, the television “viewer is operating inside the dominant code” (p. 485, emphasis original). In short, Hall’s viewer is dominated by the the ideas and representations (to pull directly from Althusser) of the metacode operating in acts of encoding by professional broadcasters.

Misunderstandings and Class Struggle

Hall (1973/2007) seeks to examine the origin of misunderstandings in mass, and especially television, communications. He theorizes that misunderstandings or distortions emerge from lack of equivalence between encoding and decoding processes. When certain frameworks of knowledge, relations of production, and technical infrastructure — Scott appears to refer to these as “ideological apparatus” — are used in encoding meaning in a television program, the frameworks of knowledge, relations of production, and technical infrastructure of the viewers decode the program’s meaningful discourse (see diagram, p. 480). If the “ideology” of the encoders is not equivalent to the “ideology” of the decoders, then misunderstandings occur. This seems to be Hall’s way of characterizing class struggle. In a similar way, Althusser describes class struggle within the framework of ideology. Ideology of the ruling class gets disseminated and enforced via ISAs.

Althusser (1971) concludes with an examination of the subject in/of ideology to mean both “a free subjectivity, a centre of initiatives, author of and responsible for its actions” and “a subjected being, who submits to a higher authority, and is therefore stripped of all freedom except that of freely accepting this submission.” The misunderstanding that necessarily occurs from this opposition is the unwillingness to recognize the “the reproduction of the relations of production and of the relations deriving from them.” Hall concludes similarly. Reproducing the relations of production — the ideological positions of television broadcasters — is necessary for Hall’s (1973/2007) “perfectly transparent communication” (p. 485), the equivalence of encoding and decoding. Because perfectly transparent communication does not exist — because the relations of production cannot be perfectly reproduced on both sides of Hall’s encoding/decoding diagram — misunderstanding occurs. We miss the vital importance of ideological positions in communication, just as Althusser suggests we miss the vital importance of ideological positions (beyond the State itself) in the struggle of the subject to be free of State ideology.

References

Althusser, L. (1971). Ideology and ideological state apparatuses (Notes towards an investigation). In B. Brewster (transl.) & A. Blunden (trans.), Louis Althusser archive. Retrieved from https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1970/ideology.htm (Original work published in Lenin philosophy and other essays)

Hall, S. (2007). Encoding, decoding. In S. During (ed.), The cultural studies reader (3rd ed.). London, UK: Routledge. (Original work published 1973)

[ Feature image: The Control Room. CC licensed image from Flickr user Jonathan ]

Reading Notes: Deleuze & Guattari, Scott, and Rainie & Wellman

Deleuze & Guattari

Reading A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987) is an experience in disorientation and reorientation. The first pages are entirely disorienting. What is that scribbled piano piece for David Tudor? What is a book without subject or object? How are lines and measurable speed related to the assemblage, and is an assemblage the same as a multiplicity? (pp. 3-4). Truth be told, I don’t think I can effectively answer those questions even after reading the chapter! But intrepid readers will eventually right themselves from their disorientated states, as I did, and discover that Deleuze and Guattari are seeking to break readers from their habitual arboreal metaphorical existence. And this does not mean emerging from the trees. It means engaging in flattened, networked, metaphorically rhizomatic thinking rather than hierarchical, binary, linear, metaphorical tree/branch thinking (p. 17). It means embracing the pragmatic schizophrenia of lived experience in all its networked, nonlinear glory rather than idealized linearity that doesn’t really exist in the lived world.

Tufte essay cover

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint” – Tufte’s critique of arborescent thinking from EdwardTufte.com

I connected this chapter to ideas in Edward R. Tufte’s (2006) essay “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within.” Tufte’s (n.d.) critique of PowerPoint as a technology that “usually weakens verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis” reflects the point Deleuze and Guattari (1981/1987) make in this chapter: that linear thinking in root/tree/branch structures (like PowerPoint’s points and outlines) simply traces and reproduces rather than analyzing and imagining (p.12). Rhizomatic thinking, on the other hand, maps with creativity and imagination in connections that can’t be predicted or controlled (p. 12). In the same way that PowerPoint stifles analysis and reasons, arborescent thinking stifles imagination, creativity, and connection. Deleuze and Guattari point to the perpetual “interbeing” of the rhizome as the alternative, or at least the preferred complement, to the arborescent metaphor for thought (p. 25).

Rainie & Wellman

What Deleuze and Guattari theorize, Rainie and Wellman explain. Accepting the rhizomatic character of 21st century networked individuals as the norm, Rainie and Wellman (2012) seek to describe the environmental and social affordances that enable networked individuality. They settle on describing networked individualism as an “operating system” to reflect that “societies — like computer systems — have networked structures that provides opportunities and constraints, rules and procedures” (p. 7). They continue to define the social network operating systems as personal, multiuser, multitasking, and multithreading (p. 7). These characteristics of the network operating system reflect the rhizomatic character of networked thinking and theorizing that Deleuze and Guattari theorize. These characteristics also point to the influence of Latour’s (2005) emphasis on the individual node as the center of the activity network, to Castells’ (2010) claim that society is a “space of flows” (to which Rainie and Wellman make direct reference, p. 102), and to Scott’s reference to the emerging schism in social network theory between those, like Homans, seeking to build a social theory around small-scale social interaction and others, like Parsons, who sought to build social theory around larger social networks (p. 23).

Rainie and Wellman (2012) identify the “Triple Revolution” of Social Network, Internet, and Mobile Revolutions “coming together to shift people’s social lives away from densely knit family, neighborhood, and group relationships toward more far-flung, less tight, more diverse personal networks” (p. 11). I took these three revolutions to represent environmental affordances enabling the development of networked individualism. In Chapter 4, which I was assigned, Rainie and Wellman address the contributions to networked individualism afforded by the explosive availability and implementation of mobile and wireless technologies: “Mobile phones have become key affordances for networked individuals as they have become easier to carry, cheaper to use, and able to function in more places” (p. 84). The ability to function in more places has become increasingly important in developing nations, where hardwired infrastructure is impractical and often skipped over on favor of cheaper wireless technology. As a result, “by 2011, more than three-quarters of the world’s mobile phones were in less-developed countries, with China alone having some 879 million subscribers” (p. 89). This represents the reduction of the digital divide among mobile phone users, a significant milestone toward which “teens are showing the way” (p. 87). The result of mobile affordances is that place becomes both less and more important. While it’s true that “the closer that people live and work together, the more contact they have” (p. 101), it’s also true that space and time are becoming “softer” and “distance is not dead, it is just being renegotiated…. Your place is where your connectivity is” (p. 108).

Rhizome visualization

“The rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 12). Image from Hypertext ICAM130 SP06

Place as connectivity” echoes Castells’ “space of flows” and Latour’s flattened localized nodes. It also reflects the rhizomatic society that Deleuze and Guattari theorize, in which Rainie and Wellman’s (2012) “continuous partial attention” (p. 108) and “present absence” (p. 103), Campbell and Park’s “connected presence,” and Gergen’s “absent presence” (qtd. in Wellman & Rainie, 2012) can all feel perfectly comfortable, a space of connection and heterogeneity: “any point of a a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be” (Deleuze & Guattari, p. 7).

Oxymoronic phrases? Only in arborescent metaphorical thought.

References

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. (B. Massumi, Trans.) Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. (Original work published 1980)

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

Rainie, L., & Wellman, B. (2012). Networked: The new social operating system. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Scott, J. (2000). Social network analysis: A handbook (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Tufte, E. R. (n.d.). Essay: The cognitive style of PowerPoint: Pitching out corrupts within [Webpage summary]. Retrieved from http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/powerpoint

Tufte, E. R. (2006). The cognitive style of PowerPoint: Pitching out corrupts within (2nd ed.). Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

[ Featured ImageAlaska forest - trees. More rhizomatic than Deleuze and Guattari make them out to be? CC licensed image from Flickr user Barbara. ]

Reading Notes: The Rise of the Network Society

A text about network connectivity offered quite a few connections to aspects of my “real” (really virtual?) life outside of academe.

Higher Education

OK, so this isn’t exactly part of life outside academe. It’s the staff side of my professional position that drew a connection to the economic value of higher education in Castells’ (2010) illustration of the valuation process in the global economy. He writes, “Two key facts appear to be at work in the valuation process: trust and expectations” (p. 159, emphasis mine). Profits aren’t the primary indicator of value in the global economy. He uses the case of Amazon, which as of writing the 2000 edition had not yet turned a profit, as an instance of investor trust and expectation resulting in high stock valuation: “in spite of losing money, the institutional environment of the new economy… had won the approval and trust of investors. And expectations were high on the ability of the on-line selling pioneer to move into e-commerce beyond books” (p. 159). In the case of higher education, profitability is not the primary source of valuation (although recent decisions by accreditation agencies to shutter schools because they were no longer profitable is an interesting change of course). Instead, parent and student expectations of the long-term monetary and occupational value of education offered through institutions, along with trust (based on past history) that the school can provide an education that offers and holds that value define the way higher education institutions are “valued.”

Infographic: Does a Higher Education Guard Against Unemployment? Source: MintLife Blog

That said, I also drew connections to the erosion of authority (and perhaps trust) in higher education in Castells’ (2010) depiction of a flattened network of cultural expression in the integrated communication system of the network society: “it weakens considerably the symbolic power of traditional senders external to the system, transmitting through historically encoded social habits: religion, morality, authority, traditional values, political ideology. Not that they disappear, but they are weakened unless they recode themselves in the new system, where their power becomes multiplied by the electronic materialization of spiritually transmitted habits: electronic preachers and interactive fundamentalist networks are a more efficient, more penetrating form of indoctrination in our societies than face-to-face transmissions of distant, charismatic authority” (p. 406). While higher educators are likely to bristle at terms like “indoctrination” and “distant, charismatic authority,” the fact that higher education finds itself lagging behind other industries in transforming itself into a network enterprise is troubling. How long will higher education be able to “preach” its gospel of access, accountability, and value through local channels rooted in the space of places?

I don’t see this transformation limited to classroom experiences, either. Many fundamental organizational structures in higher education are vertical and hierarchical, not horizontal and collaborative. How long will the Richmond schools like the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, John Tyler Community College, Richard Bland College, and Reynolds College be able to differentiate our instructional products in the Richmond metropolitan area? At what point do the obvious synergies of labor talent, instructional content, and pedagogical practice become too obvious to ignore — and will collaboration and partnership be able to surmount historical boundaries of location and culture? And at what point does the Richmond metropolitan area either become part of either the greater Washington or greater Hampton Roads mega-city? And if it doesn’t become part of one or the other, will it be passed by as a node in the network society? At which point, will any of the higher education institutions, either collaborating or separated, survive? Castells’ depiction of the global informational economy makes the case for the need to restructure or die.

Google Drive

Infographic

Infographic: Google Docs for Learning. Source: Edudemic

Maury and I will be presenting Thursday at the “Humanities Unbound” conference about the role Google Drive plays in re/defining identity in our composition classrooms. With thoughts about the role of Google Drive in my classroom lurking in the corners of my mind, I read the following statement Castells makes about ways multimedia support what I would now (in 2014) consider an adolescent (rather than emerging) social/cultural pattern. One of the characteristics Castells (2010) points out is that “communication of all kinds of messages in the same system… induces an integration of all messages in a common cognitive pattern…. From the perspective of the user… the choice of various messages under the same communication mode, with easy switching from one to the other, reduces the mental distance between various sources of cognitive and sensorial involvement” (p. 402, emphasis original). Castells appears to predict the blurring and merging of genre conventions as a characteristic of communication in the Information Age. Google Drive reflects just such blurring: is a Google Doc a word processing document or a web page? Maury and I have used Google Docs like web pages as much as, or more than, we have used Google Docs as word processing documents. While this appears to be an instance of reducing “the mental distance” between cognitive and sensorial involvement, the localized facts are more interesting. In my own class, there are two or three students who have embraced Google Drive as a multimodal tool for writing, revising, collaborating, embedding, and linking. These are students whom I would consider embedded in network enterprises. Other students in my class struggle to use Google Docs effectively or proficiently. These are students whom I would consider embedded in the space of places, localized, lacking adequate experiences, background, training, or tools to engage fully and deeply in the global informational economy. These are students I’m seeking to “indoctrinate,” because I worry that they will find themselves unlinked, passed by as lacking value in the global economy. Worryingly, several of these students embedded in the space of places work in higher education.

Marketing


Everything You Know is Not Quite Right Anymore: Rethinking Best Web Practices to Respond to the Future from Doug Gapinski

I am a professional writer. This realization came as a surprise to me. I make money by writing, editing, proofreading, and managing web and other copy. I never thought I would make money from writing. I work on a team of four marketers, each with differentiated expertise and experience. We work as a collaborative team among what I would characterize as a vertically-structured collection of departments and divisions. While the fact that I work on a team that values and expects collaboration is not entirely germane to my next point, it explains the critical approach to higher education I shared earlier in this post.

As a professional marketer, I live out the reality that, as Castells (2010) puts it in “McLunanian” language, “the message of the medium (still operating as such) is shaping different media for different messages” (p. 368). My team develops different media for different messages. To attendees of regional graduate and professional school fairs we create a collection of integrated print pieces that focuses on the flexibility of our graduate degree programs, especially the ability to attend school part time while working in a related profession. To those who visit our site by clicking on ads we place on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google search results, the Google Display Network, and Bing search results, we craft webpages that are customized to each segmented audience. And to members of our Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for learners aged 50 and over, we print a larger piece that focuses specifically on their interest in engaging in the life of a traditional private liberal arts college campus. We don’t mix these messages or these media; we segment messages by target audience with a large degree of granularity, and we use distinct media to convey those messages.

Market segmentation is the reality. We now advertise in only two traditional “mass media” — radio and billboards. And we continue to funnel more funds toward segmented online advertising efforts and away from the mass media. We can target highly specialized audiences on online advertising platforms, and as a result we can expect better return on investment (ROI) for the dollars spent to capture prospective students. This, in turn, leads to greater segmentation as web visitors expect even more highly individualized marketing messages, and as technological boundaries expand to enable ever greater granularity in advertising and marketing.

I appreciated and enjoyed that Castells wrote about my professional world. That was cool and welcomed.

References

Castells, M. (2010). The rise of the network society [2nd edition with a new preface]. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Louisiana State University. (2013, September). LSU enrollment mgmt org chart 9 2013 [Illustration]. Retrieved from http://studentlife.lsu.edu/category/search-keywords/organizational-chart

Reading Notes: The Neuronal Network

My Digital Brain?

The network made of neurons is digital. That’s what I took from this statement about neuron firing: “A neuron can only fire or not fire; there is no ‘slightly activated’ signal from a neuron” (“Neurobiology” 2013, p. 6). I took this activity to be analogous to digital 0s and 1s: a digitally transmitted signal is either on or off (which explains why digital televisions have either perfect pictures or terrible pictures — there are no in-between states of digitally-transmitted data).

Okay, so the brain is not exactly digital. The neuronal network is a composite of electro-chemical impulses within highly specialized organic cellular structures. But I’m intrigued by the idea that neurons either fire or don’t fire. This suggests that brain functions use on/off switches like digital networks; by extension, this suggests that my ability or inability to remember something is not strictly a neuronal function. Other aspects of brain function beyond synaptic firing are at work when it comes to memory retrieval. That’s not exactly relevant to this summary, but it’s an interesting perspective on brain function as it relates to neuron firing.

The Network

The neuronal network is remarkable. I’ll break down the network into its composite parts as I understand them.

Nodes: When I took notes on the reading, I identified cells in the brain as nodes — neurons, glial cells, and other matter (p. 2). But as I reflect on the network, I’ve decided that the nodes in the neuronal network are more likely sensory inputs and physical or chemical outputs: brain function “can be broken down into three basic functions: (1) take in sensory information, (2) process information between neurons, and (3) make outputs” (p. 1). Neurons throughout the body, concentrated in the brain, represent potential pathways for connective activity (processing information) among network nodes. Signals from sensory inputs travel through these pathways into and out of the brain and back to outputs like organs and muscles, which react to sensory inputs.

Connections: This is where neurons excel. Neurons transmit signals from node to node in the network. Transmission is remarkably complex, involving electrical and chemical impulses along with ionic activity along chemical pathways, assisted by myelin, other glial cells, and neurotransmitters along the way. The signals carried along these neuron pathways are physical, chemical, and other responses to sensory inputs.

Meaning: Within the neuron itself, “meaning” is ionic. Neurons send and receive nerve impulses, or “action potential” (p. 4), within their cell structures, then fire such impulses across synapses using neurotransmitters and neural receptors (p. 5-6) to communicate “messages” to and from sensory, mechanical, and chemical nodes. Those messages are encoded from the nodes as chemical or electrical impulses, but within the neuron itself, those impulses travel as ions. Between the neurons, in their own network of axons and dendrites, impulses travel as neurotransmitters and engage many neurons in the activity of transmitting meaning among input and output nodes: “the activation of a single sensory neuron could quickly lead to the activation of inhibition of thousands of neurons” (p. 6).

Visualization of action potential moving through a neuron's axon.

Action potential movement through an axon. Image archive in Unit 10: Neurobiology chapter, part of the Rediscovering Biology online textbook.

Framework and Activity: Neurons represent the framework in which the network is activated. Without sensory input or some kind of output (chemical, physical, emotional), the network is inactive. The framework exists to enable activity, and that framework actually grows or repairs itself over time by generating new neurons from neuronal stem cells (p. 13). Activity in the network is defined as meaning being sent and received through the neuronal connections by input and output nodes. Activity within the neuron itself is defined by chemical processes. As a result, sensory deprivation could halt the network — but so could a lack of neurotransmitter or destruction of myelin or other glial cells. In other words, the network can cease functioning as a result of deactivating nodes or deactivating connectors.

Memory and Learning

Another node I need to consider, aside from sensory inputs and mechanical or chemical outputs, is the hippocampus, “a structure through which all information must pass, before it can be memorized” (p. 12). Based on this description from the text, I’d suggest that, in network terms, the hippocampus might be considered a node with many incoming connections (a la Latour, 2005) or a network gateway that routes (perhaps mediating along the way) neuronal impulses toward memory storage areas. Memory and learning “involve molecular changes in the brain” (p. 10) and represent a chemical output (and input) node in the neuronal network. Sensory input translated into ionic and neurotransmitter meaning travels through the neuronal network through the hippocampus node to be inscribed as molecular change in the brain; this molecular change (memory) becomes a node that can be activated by other sensory inputs to elicit the output response, “I remember!”

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.29.38 PM

Training the brain. Not sure I buy the Luminosity premise, but if effective, Luminosity probably results in opening new pathways through the hippocampus toward molecular change (memory). Screen capture from Luminosity landing page (tracked via Google Analytics through Google Adwords as a result of selecting a Google search ad).

Application

I was interviewed by a nurse this morning to help determine my eligibility for an insurance product. Much of the interview appeared to relate to my ability to remember things: 4-, 5-, and 6-digit strings of random numbers, series of words, and random words that I incorporated into sentences. In basic terms, I’m pretty sure my neuronal network never transmitted any of these impulses through my hippocampus. That is, I never committed these items to any kind of memory. The impulses (aural, via telephone) were translated into meaning, which I then output vocally (also via telephone), but they did not result in molecular changes in my brain. The tests, I believe, were not intended to test long-term memory, but to ascertain whether I could process data from sensory input through neural transmission to vocal outputs. In short, is my neuronal network functioning as expected? The answer to that question, coupled with my age, profession, eating and exercise habits, and level of alertness will be used in underwriting the policy to determine whether I will be an acceptable risk for the insurance product. I, of course, believe myself quite eligible — but then again, I didn’t remember those ten random words well.

References

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

Neurobiology: Unit 10. (2013). Rediscovering biology: Molecular to global perspectives [Online textbook PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.learner.org/courses/biology/pdf/10_neuro.pdf

[Header image: Neural Network Visualization (made from Babybel cheese bag). CC licensed image from Flickr user Rick Bolin]

Reading Notes: Ecology and Distributed Composing

I plowed through all of these readings in a single sitting, which did not help much with comprehension, but which did affect my experience reading. I’m a composition teacher who prefers to grade all assignments in a single sitting, an web manager who prefers to make changes that affect multiple parts of the navigation structure in a single work session, and a reader who, honestly, prefers to read at least an entire “piece” of writing in a single reading session. What I discovered as I read these in a single sitting is that the works built off one another in interesting ways. I’ll admit to being puzzled by Guattari; it’s always troubling when the translators’ introduction is clearer than the text itself! But I found that, once I started writing myself into a summary, I began to better understand what I had read (no surprise there, of course). More significantly, I found elements of Guattari’s (2012/1989) focus on the interrelationships and interplay among mental, social, and environmental ecologies informative in understanding the relationship of abiotic processes and elements in a natural or agroecology (Spellman, 2007). And Guattari’s insistence that we humans must be engaged in addressing and recovering our environmental ecological equilibrium offered a useful insight into ecological homeostatasis. Finally, Guattari, Spellman, Bateson (1987/1972), and Gibson (1986/1979) were important background readings that made Syverson (1999) accessible and understandable.

Dynamic Interrelationships

Repeated emphasis on the dynamic relationships within ecology was not lost on me. Guattari (2012/1989) refers to “the tangled paths of the three ecological vision” (p. 44) while the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies (2014) notes that ecology is about relationships, an “encompassing and synthetic” rather than “fragmented” view of nature. Spellman (2007) writes that “ecology is all about interrelationships, infraspecific and interspecific, and how important it is to maintain those relationships—to ensure our very survival” (p. 6). And Syverson (1999) draws on all these sources and more to define ecology as it relates to composition as “An ecology is a kind of meta-complex system composed of interrelated and interdependent complex systems and their environmental structures and processes” (p. 5).

These references reinforce my emerging understanding of networks as connected, interrelated, and active. I’m being drawn to articulate networks as requiring dynamic connections. Without active interrelations, the only aspect of the network that exists is a framework and/or a trace. But when the activity occurs — and the activity may take only a split second to occur — in that moment the network emerges. Ecologies are active networks. They don’t exist merely as frameworks or traces, although they may develop their own frameworks and hierarchies, like those described by Spellman (2007, quoting Odum 1983): “the best way to delimit modern ecology is to consider the concept of levels of organization” (p. 14). They can certainly be traced, as evidence my Spellman’s multiple examples of tracing ecosystems and populations within ecosystems.

Composing Ecologies

Word map

Mapping a composition ecology: WordItOut CC licensed image

I’ve thought a great deal this semester about the way I teach composition. I’ve radically altered my instruction this semester to reflect my nascent understanding of current composition theory. I’ve spent much of the semester convincing my students that composing is an experience that encompasses much more than the rhetorical triangle. Syverson offers a much clearer way to articulate what I think I’ve been hinting at all semester:

“I would argue that writers, readers, and texts form just such a complex system of self-organizing, adaptive, and dynamic interactions. But even beyond this level of complexity, they are actually situated in an ecology, a larger system that includes environmental structures [see the Ecology Map of My Classroom]… as well as other complex systems operating at various levels of scale…” (p. 5)

I’m encouraging my students to problematize their own understanding of the writing process as a class experience, as a social experience, and, I can now claim, as a complex activity system in an ecology. I believe doing so positions them to succeed in the real-world writing they will be asked to do beyond my classroom, academic, professional, and personal. And I also believe that doing any less robs them of an understanding of composing that makes too many assumptions about what writing is and is not.

Tricksters on the Edge

Anansi the Spider image

Anansi the Spider: A trickster who weaves a web of deceptions, but also creates a subversive narrative.

Once again I somewhat reluctantly admit trickster back into my understanding of Syverson specifically, and ecologies more generally. Syverson (1999) writes that “complex systems are dynamic, more unpredictable, spontaneous, and disorderly than a machine” (p. 4) and “the frontiers of knowledge are found… in the articulations between levels of organization of the real that correspond to different fields of knowledge whose techniques and discourses do not overlap” (p. 3). The dynamic tension that affords complex systems is precisely the dynamic tension of interstices and boundary spaces that trickster inhabits. Trickster inhabits liminal spaces and takes advantage of boundaries as crossing spaces and times. Boundaries are spaces in which connections can and do occur, the results of dynamic tensions at articulation points. And that is one way to describe the environment of tricksters and the affordance of ecology. If ecology is about interrelationships, then boundaries contain the connective tissues that afford ecologies. And where boundaries happen, tricksters emerge, sometimes releasing raw sewage into the stream, the immediate result of which is destruction, but the long-term result of which might ultimately be Spellman’s (2007) ecology succession, the method by which an ecosystem either forms or heals itself (p. 82). And sometimes the trickster creates something new from the dynamic interrelationships, like a genetically modified organism.

Trickster generally creates to destroy and destroys to create, unpredictably and selfishly. Sounds a little like a problem to which Guattari’s (2012/1989) focus in The Three Ecologies seeks a remedy.

References

Bateson, G. (1987/1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc.

Gibson, J. J. (1986/1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Guattari, F. (2012/1989). The three ecologies. Trans. Ian Pindar & Paul Sutton. London, UK: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Spellman, F. R. (2007). Ecology for nonecologists. Lanham, MD: Government Institutes, 3-23; 61-84.

Syverson, M. A. (1999). The wealth of reality: An ecology of composition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1-27.

[Featured image - Distributed composition: CC licensed image by Flickr user Gexydaf]

Reading Notes: Ecology & Affordance

Bateson

Bateson, G. (1987/1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc.

To separate the individual from the society, or the individual mind or thought from the global mind or thought, is to deny the ecological unity of creatura, of the creative self. Individuals are part of ecologies; to reduce oneself to a single ego is to deny the relationship of the individual in the larger social.

I found most interesting that ecology might be considered a way in which ideas — differences that make a difference — are transformed and remain alive beyond the individual mind. The mind is not simply an internal space. It’s an ecology that connects beyond the self, beyond the individual, to encompass history and society. Since “in the world of mind, nothing — that which is not — can be a cause” (p. ???), ecology theory suggests that binaries and dualities, like cause and effect, offer only an incomplete picture of reality. Reality consists of causes and effects, but it also consists of invisible connections made in the world of mind, connections that cannot be empirically proven as “existing” in the physical sense.

Bateson puts this another way in his “Comment on Part V”: “In sum, what has been said amounts to this: that in addition to (and always in conformity with) the familiar physical determinism which characterizes our universe, there is a mental determinism” (p. 472). The key is immanence versus transcendence. Transcendence leads to divine or transcendent agency, while immanence yields communal and networked agency within systems. And it’s this sense of networked agency that relates most directly to our understanding of network theory.

Gibson

Gibson, J. J. (1986). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

There’s clearly confusion over the meaning of “affordance,” as demonstrated in this visualization headlining a blog post titled The affordances of objects and pictures of those objects on the blog Notes from Two Scientific Psychologists.

“Affordance” is defined as that which is provided or furnished, either for good or for ill. Affordances must be determined relative to the subject, not “objectively.” As a result, affordance may be a way to subvert the objective/subjective divide. Since determining affordances requires referencing the observer, a theory of affordances enables us to examine the relationships among objects and subjects in an ecology that denies dualism in favor of ecology. In short, affordances are about networks; the relationship among objects and subjects in an ecology is that of networked connections that connect nodes.

Affordance theory does not accept as valid either mind-matter or mind-body dichotomies. Instead, it recognizes the ecological connections that can’t be ignored or explained away. Like ANT, affordance theory seeks to examine connections among subjects and objects in all their complexity. In addition, a theory of affordances does not require the perceiver to “assume fixed classes of objects.” Like Foucault and ANT, affordance theory resists placing subjects and objects into fixed classifications. “The perceiving of an affordance is not a process of perceiving a value-free physical object to which meaning is somehow added in a way that no one has been able to agree upon; it is a process of perceiving a value-rich ecological object.” The affordance is perceived as ecological in nature, lacking singular or classified focus.

Norman

Norman, D. (n.d.). Affordances and design. Don Norman Designs. Retrieved from http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and_desi.html.

Perceived affordances differ from real affordances in that perceived affordances focus on the user’s perception that a meaningful action is possible. Norman writes, “I introduced the term affordance to design in my book, ‘The Psychology of Everyday Things’…. The concept has caught on, but not always with true understanding. Part of the blame lies with me: I should have used the term ‘perceived affordance,’ for in design, we care much more about what the user perceives than what is actually true. What the designer cares about is whether the user perceives that some action is possible (or in the case of perceived non-affordances, not possible).” Perceived affordance focuses on what the user believes possible through the affordance. The actual affordance may not be relevant; the perception of affordance is much more important.

Norman differentiates between affordances and conventions. Cultural conventions are the way things are done in cultural contexts. The example offered is of scrollbars on a screen. They always work in a specific way that is culturally constructed and conventional. To go against this cultural convention is counterproductive.

Thoughts on Application

Visualization of cloud of icons

The world of mind: An ecology of web design. Visualizing the ecology of affordances and cultural conventions in web design. From KaJ Labs, a web design company.

Norman’s recommendations about designing for screen interfaces were right on target, although they also discouraged me a little in realizing how much cultural conventions affect pedagogical decisions. We often try to make changes to rapidly or two radically; in doing so, we push too hard against cultural conventions that make effective work possible. Norman’s concern about metaphor is more valid than I wish to admit; I’ve had a couple of experiences this semester trying to use metaphor to explain some pedagogical design decisions that backfired because students took the metaphor too literally and misunderstood assignments.

When it comes to web design, perceived affordances and cultural conventions work together with subjects to enable activity. Cultural conventions work as frameworks into which perceived affordances may be constructed that allow subjects to accomplish meaningful activity. We create web pages within conventional frameworks of programming languages, software, and hardware; we create those web pages with perceived affordances that enable users to accomplish tasks of browsing and finding information being sought. Our designs enter the ecology of all those perceived affordances constructed within cultural conventions — websites, blogs, multimodal projects, streaming audio and video platforms, and more.

[Feature Image: Ecology of the Mohave Desert. CC licensed image by Flickr user PNNL - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory]

Reading Notes: Latour d’ANT (Final Stage) Reaches Spinuzzi

I believe I follow the broad strokes of Latour’s (2005) argument in Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory pretty clearly, but I find the detail he provides in places extraneous and, to be honest, a bit pompous and flippant. Latour recognizes this about himself, and suggests it’s intentional: “I have completed what I promised to do at the beginning, namely to be one-sided enough so as to draw all the consequences from a fairly implausible starting point” (p. 262).

In its broadest strokes, Latour introduces actor-network-theory (ANT) as a means of reassembling what the term “social” means in “the social sciences.” The term “social” has come to mean two things that Latour finds incompatible: “first, a movement during a process of assembling; and second, a specific type of ingredient that is supposed to differ from other material” (p. 1). He is especially critical of “the project of providing a ‘social explanation’ of some other state of affairs” (p. 1). He differentiates between sociology of the social and sociology of association, seeking to replace the former with the latter as a means of moving forward in social scientific fieldwork and production. Given the rapid rate of change that technological innovation introduces, trying to place our existing groupings into already existing categories limits the perspective of social scientists in ways that negate the scientific aspects of the discipline. In a way, Latour is seeking to rehabilitate the social scientific discipline as it appears to become less and less relevant in describing and explaining real, lived experiences and groupings.

One of Latour’s critiques of the social sciences, or the sociology of the social, is the willingness to categorize activity using existing descriptions and categories of social ties without adequately investigating its connections. This resonated with me as I consider what’s happening right now in the Ukraine. Existing frameworks and tools simply do not explain the social, political, and economic situation in that region, especially the speed at which change is occurring. The social sciences address stabilized social situations; ANT seeks to address and examine, perhaps even explain, existing social situations in and through their changes. ANT sees stabilized groupings and collectives as the exception, not the norm. Groupings are always seeking to change, to redefine themselves, to envelope or subsume other groupings. The current mixed reactions to Russians entering Crimea represents this ANT principle — groupings that were considered stable are revealed to have been fomenting, preparing, and making way for change, but economists, sociologists, and politicians missed the signs, likely because they sought to find an existing set of frameworks by which to explain what was happening.

How might ANT reassemble the social in the situation in the Ukraine? First, by seeking groupings from their traces rather than by placing groups into categories. Latour theorizes five areas of uncertainty that can be followed by their traces to identify actor-networks.

  1. Only action can identify groupings, so the key is to identify specific activities of group formation. Group formation can be revealed in the following traces: an active spokesperson, a set of opposition groupings, frantic attempts to redefine groups on their part of their spokespersons, and the potential for spokespersons to be scientists of the social. Actions are likely to involve mediators, which affect the activity in unpredicted and unpredictable ways, rather than through intermediaries, which are standardized and predictable.
  2. Actors consist of a “moving target of a vast array of entities swarming toward it” (p. 46). Actors (in the theatrical sense) are always engaged with other entities when acting; the same is true in ANT, where the actor is really an actor-network, being made to act by many others objects and entities. Those objects and entities can includes hidden forces and impetuses that should neither be discounted nor highlighted, simply included among other forces. Neither “true” nor “false” agencies exist; there are simply agencies.
  3. Objects may have agency as actor-networks consist of all entities that swarm toward actors and make the actor act. The social is defined as the “momentary association which is characterized by the way it gathers together into new shapes” (p. 65). Social skills among actors seek to create connections; non-social means are used to extend these connections a little longer.
  4. Few matters of fact exist among connections; instead, matters of concern highlight connections. The aim of the sociology of associations: “there is no society, no social realm, and no social ties, but there exist translations between mediators that may generate traceable associations” (p. 108).
  5. Written accounts tracing the sociology of associations are risky and unlikely to successfully account for the myriad associations existing in an actor-network. However, it is the writing of the account that demonstrates ANT; the writing of the account following ANT principles is the practice of ANT.

Using these areas of uncertainty, we might discover that “Ukraine” is a construct of the sociology of science. What we consider “Ukraine” may not exist among tracings of connections; instead, what exists may be actor-networks engaged in unexpected mediated translations with Russian military leaders, the former Soviet fleet in Sevastepol, Crimean separatists, and Eastern Ukrainian loyalists (each of which is a grouping that needs to be reassembled of its connections, too). In short, written accounts that fall back upon existing sociology of the social groups simply cannot account for the rapidly-shifting transformational landscape of 21st century geopolitics, especially related to the former Soviet Union.

ukraine demonstration - photo

BBC News Photo, AFP: As the situation in Ukraine deteriorates, political turmoil could lead to default, which looks likely, according to one of the major rating companies, S&P.

There are other aspects of ANT, of course, including the need to “flatten” the social to eliminate external expectations of scale and importance; the need to identify and redistribute the local among its many actual times and spaces; and the need to highlight “connections, vehicles, and attachments” (p. 220) rather than actor-networks in the social. Such moves applied to the situation in the Ukraine might offer insight into the relative insignificance of the individual actor-networks (political and social leaders, for example) compared to the connections of individual actors gaining multiple connections (mass protests, for example); into the vital importance of history in the Crimean peninsula and technological innovation and substantiation in the Soviet-era Black Sea fleet; and into the importance of unseen, untraced connections that are generating lived experience in real time.

As this brief and incomplete application reveals, ANT seeks a complete redefinition of the political, too, towards seeking a common world we can all access and understand. “What ANT has tried to do is make itself sensitive again to the sheer difficulty of assembling collectives made of so many new members once nature and society have simultaneously been put aside” (p. 259). More specifically, “ANT is simply a way of saying that the task of assembling a common world [a social] cannot be contemplated if the other task [describing the social] is not pursued well beyond the narrow limits fixed by the premature closure of the social sphere [by the sociology of the social]” (p. 260). The world in which we live changes and moves too quickly for a social sciences that is “supposed to be ‘behind’ political action” (p. 261) to effectively or meaningfully describe it.

The lived world is far more complex than the substance and categories traditional social sciences can contain; ANT seeks to provide new methods for understanding the actions of assemblages.

Spinuzzi’s (2008) chapter “How are Networks Theorized?” offers an interesting caveat to this application. While ANT offers an ontology that can explain why or how the Ukrainian situation is what it is, its application can offer little in the way of instruction or development. ANT precludes forward-looking praxis; it can be applied to present and past events, but the unpredictable character of its connections and mediators makes predicting network operations nearly impossible. Activity theory, on the other hand, offers a means for development and education. ANT deemphasizes “development, learning, and cognition” (p. 93). As a practical matter, this means that activity theory offers an epistemology to be applied as praxis, and the theory can be more instructionally operationalized.

References

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

Spinuzzi, C. (2008). How are networks theorized? [Chapter]. In Network: Theorizing Knowledge Work in Telecommunications. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 62-94.

[Top image: Ken in Austin Bike Zoo [or, as I prefer, Latour d'ANT] : Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Ken Meyer]

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: Theorizing a CHATty Canon

Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) opens wide the theory of composition to the laminated materiality, space, and time of rhetoric, elements missing from the classical rhetorical canon that focuses primarily on the rhetor. “CHAT offers a richer map of activity. Where 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” (Prior et al., 2007, Core Text, p. 22). Accepting the role these interlocking systems play in rhetoric offers a wide range of cultural and historical data points with which to map, examine, and articulate a discursive act, data points that are simply unavailable to us when describing a discursive act using the classical canon as a framework.

Not only does CHAT open wide composition theory, it also opens wide the eyes of those examining it for the first time, like me. CHAT is deceptively authentic in its understanding and depiction of rhetorical canon. There’s an element of the “duh” tucked within its pages of theory. It’s just so obvious once you start thinking about it. Rhetorical activity is not bound by classical canons; binding it so limits its vision, its breadth and scope. Rhetorical activity as it happens in public and private spaces combines a rich tapestry of histories, cultural memory and practice, semiotic systems, invoked and inscribed audiences, research processes, memory work, and rhetors. It’s an activity system that requires a far more nuanced and layered understanding of discursive formation than classical canons provide. While CHAT may not be the only theory that seeks to address rhetorical activity as actually practiced in real networks or systems, it’s certainly compelling and attractive.

The readings this week coalesced around the three aspects of the CHAT remapped rhetorical canon: literate activity in functional systems in laminated chronotypes (Prior et al, 2007, Core Text, p. 18). These three aspects represent levels working together heterogeneously in the creation, distribution, reception, and function of discourse. These levels are not hierarchical nor sequential; they function as cultural-historical aspects of the activity system that creates discourse. The CHAT rhetorical canon offers a nuanced, detailed, and localized framework for understanding and describing multimodal composition strategies, structures, activities, and assessments: “This perspective tunes our attention to multimodality, not as a question of which mode a message might be placed in, but as a question of how multiple modes operate together in a single rhetorical act and of how extended chains of modal transformations may be linked in a rhetorical trajectory” (p. 23). This concept of rhetorical trajectory embodies the activity of rhetoric in far more nuanced ways than Miller’s (1984) genre as social action or even Bazerman’s (1994) genre system or (2004) activity systems. “Trajectory” denotes a continuing path and connotes, to 20th century audiences, at any rate, the future embedded in space exploration as symbol of greater things to come. CHAT also recognizes the history embedded in genres, as Spinuzzi (2010) pointed out, by noting the rhetorical trajectories emerge from “extended [linked] chains of modal transformations” (Prior et al., 2007, Core Text, p. 23). This theory embodies the idea that discourse embeds within it both potential and actual activity; past, present, and future; rhetor and audience; purpose and symbolic system; context and meaning. And it places all of those aspects of discourse into cultural-historical time/space.

Prior: Remaking IO, Remaking Rhetoric: Semiotic Remediation as Situated Rhetorical Practice

Prior takes as his object of study the act of remediating an art object called IO, an interactive website with words and images. This web text illustrates the laminated process by which an interactive website received an update as a result of an update to Flash 5. Findings demonstrate the deeply-ingrained interaction among multiple media and levels of meaning. Prior calls for closer attention to “the situated and mediated practices of exploring new media” as a result of these findings, and calls upon CHAT as a “rich theoretical framework for exploring such situated, multiply mediated, semiotic and social practices.”

Engaging Quotation and Reaction

“This lamination of history can be seen, for example, in the way the site is organized around both PHP and Pythagoras, the way the web is remediating photography, the way Flash templates and PHP databases are negotiated through gesture (presumably one of our most ancient semiotic systems), and the way paper-and-pencil drawings guide the programming of screen dynamics.” (Prior, 2007)

As I read this piece, I found my daily life described in some accurate detail. I work with visualizations, gestures, orality, documents, databases, and new technologies to complete my daily tasks. In this sense I am multiply modal, but I think I am also historically laminated, perhaps in time and space. For example, I find myself working with the golden mean in mind (using the rule of thirds) when cropping digital images for use in online search advertising landing pages. I find myself relying on classical persuasive rhetoric to write landing page copy for these landing pages, copy that attracts prospective students and situates the potential learning to occur on the campus of the University of Richmond. There are many layers to my day-to-day tasks, and it dawns on me that I might consider them the subject of my doctoral study.

Van Ittersum: Data Palace: Modern Memory Work in Digital Environments

Van Ittersum studies the ways that writers use networked computers to accomplish rhetorical work through the lens of distributed cognition theory. Since knowledge work and memory work — as distributed cognitive processes — are mediated by tools, it’s important to understand ways that those tools influence and affect our memory systems and workflows. Van Ittersum’s project reveals that we need to incorporate these tools and their use in our understanding of memory work as members of the discursive system used to generate texts.

Engaging Quotation and Response

“Looking at memory work in terms of mediated activity expands the kinds of scenes that count as writing activity. For the writers I’ve interviewed, memory work is a central part of their writing, and construction and maintenance of their systems involves significant investments of time and effort.” (Van Ittersum, 2007)

Here’s my first reaction: “OK, so I’m getting a little paranoid now, because this describes so much of my initial and ongoing search for just the right tool for research. In these terms, I’m seeking just the right tools to add to my memory system for memory work as a component of the writing experience.”

Throughout last semester, and entering into this semester, I’ve been seeking just the right technology tool(s) to accomplish three tasks:

  • be a space for drafting and keeping track of many drafts in many forms;
  • be a space for tracking and recording my research process; and
  • be a space for note taking in all forms (visual, aural, text).

I’ve developed a partnership among tools through which I’ve conscientiously developed a system for tracking and recording everything I do as a PhD student. If I read a PDF, I want that text (if possible) and my notes digitized and searchable. If I read a text, I want my notes to be digitized and searchable. If I take class notes, write an in-class response, or do anything else in writing, I want to have digital and searchable versions. (Here’s where I formulated my needs in September 2013: Seeking the Best Research and Writing Tool.)

These tools form a vital part of my memory and knowledge work, and I’ve tried hard to find just the right set. I’ve settled on/for a recipe of Scrivener, Zotero, and iAnnotate (with a soupçon of Evernote for good measure), but I don’t believe I’ve found the ideal set for my needs. One adapts one’s processes to one’s tools, which suggests, as Van Ittersum (2007) reiterates, that the tools themselves affect the knowledge work that I do.

Bellwoar: Digital Health and Feminist (Re)Visionings of Healing

Bellwoar uses the web text to depict the importance of bringing forth aspects, especially invisible aspects, of the health care experience that are not immediately recognized or appreciated. Her depiction of the difference between a healthcare professional’s report on an office visit and the patient’s personal narrative of the visit is striking and disconcerting. The ways in which doctors see patients, especially female patients seen by male doctors, is limited, even shaped, by medical records and forms.

The experience of visiting a doctor is one of being seen in a completely different way from the way one sees oneself. When this is the case, what can be said about the identity of the patient? Does the patient’s identity in the medical files remain clinical and entirely disembodied from the patient’s perceived self-identity? Bellwoar appears to believe that it does, as the mediated experience she narrates reveals very different perspectives on identity and knowledge between patient and physician.

Bellwoar used CHAT to compare the visual privilege of the physician’s experience with the visual privilege of the digital, and warns that seeing is not an objective phenomenon or experience. Seeing is mediated, and it’s important that we recognize and make visible those invisible aspects of seeing that exist in all envisionings.

Reactions

Although Bellwoar’s web text embedded audio, it remained a largely visual experience, following the pattern of privileging the visual in the digital. As a result, it offered few “quotes” that could be pulled and discussed. However, the web text as a whole caught and kept my attention because it did what Bellwoar called the work of theory: “The work of theory is to make visible that which is invisible” (Bellwoar, 2007). What no one could have known was the affinity I have for her message. My wife is a two-time cancer cervical survivor. She more than understands the invisible character of medical practice. Among other issues she continues to handle almost 20 years after the last surgeries, my wife’s internal organs are, literally, invisible, even on X-ray, ultrasound, and CAT scan. They have migrated as a result of scar tissue and reconstruction. As a result, even when physicians (all but one male) review her films and “see” her organs, they literally have to ask her which organs are which. They can’t see. Only she can see and know. Without seeing the films, she can point out where her organs are in her torso. Her memory and experience are the key to unlocking the knowledge work that her team of physicians need to treat her.

Joyce R. Walker: Constructing a BIG Text: Developing a Multimodal Master Plan for Composition Instruction

Walker’s web text uses the somewhat unfortunate story of an advanced class in public writing at her institution as an instructional and cautionary tale on the importance of explaining CHAT-inspired composition strategies and theories to both first-year writers and to external audiences questioning the value of composition strategies that fall outside of the expectation for standard research writing. She encourages the use of many narratives to tell the story of composed texts, narratives that explain and represent the system-wide work required and completed to create the text, including research into materiality and appropriateness of mode to audience and purpose. The goal of the web text is to articulate a strategy to incorporate CHAT-oriented approaches into FYW classes. She defines the following five steps toward accomplishing that goal.

  1. FYW must attend to the materiality of texts. It is important to offer students the opportunity to make knowledgeable choices about software, hardware, structural organization, and to examine the rhetorical potentials of different visual, aural, and alphabetical compositions. It is also important for students to understand relationships between experimental compositions and those which can be identified as appropriate to various academic disciplines.
  2. Course assignments for a CHAT-based first-year writing program must encompass complex compositional processes and must encourage both active manipulation of these processes and reflection about the effects of different compositional choices. These activities must be visible to both course participants and outside audiences.
  3. CHAT-based writing courses must articulate a research-oriented perspective towards the available compositional choices — students must understand that effective choices can only be made through a rigorous research process.
  4. Students and instructors can use descriptive narratives to outline, analyze, and make explicit the possible “range of materialities” available for any given composition activity, highlighting not only the choices that composers make, but the robust nature of the research involved in these kinds of composition activities. Narratives also allow composers to include discussion of choices made by those who distribute or receive and make use of the texts in different ways.
  5. Students should be given the opportunity to test their writing in varius ways in public situations, and to incorporate into their work for the course observations about the life of the text as it moves into the world. (Walker, 2007)

Interesting Quotation and Reaction

“If this is indeed our need, then first-year writing courses must become more fertile, flexible, and associative places for learning, but they must also become locations for research, places where students are asked to interrogate both their writing and their literate practices.” (Walker, 2007)

My immediate reaction was “Yes!!! This is what I’ve realized about my writing class (to which I can’t give the time of day over the weekend because I’m writing my own work and reading my own assignments).” I really have been deeply affected by the research I’ve already done in the PhD program, all one-and-a-half classes in! I teach adult students returning to school, and I want them to come away from my ENGL 201U class with an understanding of writing that applies to all aspects of their lives—personal, professional, and academic. I want them to interrogate their own assumptions about writing and to be conscious of every decision they make about what they write, how they write it, and for whom. This is new for me; a year and a half ago, I wanted students to read texts and writing about them. Now I want them to read themselves as a text, then read the assignment as a text, then read an article as a text, and THEN write into a conversation about that text that takes into account all the readings they’ve done in the process of creating their final text—which could be a new media project. They’re resistant, but putting the process into practical, applicable terms outside academe has had the desired motivational effect.

Technological (Mediated) Issues

I believe one of the most troubling issues facing the use of digital technology in composition is the speed of technological obsolescence. I faced the issue of obsolescence related to technological standards at several turns in these readings. I faced the first challenge in the Prior web text with the very technology that forced the remediation — Flash. My tablet, where I generally read and annotate non-monograph-length texts, won’t run Flash, so I found the experience inconvenient and rooted to one of two technical spaces — my laptop or my desktop. On my desktop the day I tried to watch this text, I never did see any one of the embedded videos in full, because bandwidth issues (likely brought on by the fact that my wife and two daughters were all watching different video streams at the same time) restricted my ability to load the files completely. This made me very conscious of the software, hardware, and network mediating my experience as viewer/reader. These are real and serious considerations, and efforts should be made to develop and utilize platform-agnostic interfaces and programming tools to eliminate these restrictions.

I faced a second challenge in the Bellwoar web text with embedded audio files; as a result, my experience of her web text unintentionally privileged the visual (which she warned against in the content of the text) and affected my reading of the text in negative ways. Neither Chrome nor Safari would successfully play embedded audio files. Ultimately, Firefox was the only browser that appears to have mediate the experience accurately. This, too, made me aware of my mediated experience and led me to wonder about the technical skills of the author—perhaps she designed for a specific browser, failed to adhere to XHTML and CSS standards, or hasn’t updated (remediated) the experience with newer versions of Quicktime. She may even have tested the cross-platform compatibility of the project at the time of its release and found it worked in most major browsers, but changes and updates to browsers and standards may have resulted in the challenges I faced. Issues of obsolescence like this limit the experience for the end user in real and frustrating ways. Had I not been a savvy web user, I would not have even noticed that the project included embedded audio files.

screenshot

No audio: Here’s what Chrome displayed when I tried to access an audio file. Notice the warning message in yellow at the top of the page: “QuickTime Plug-in 7.7.3 has crashed.”

And I faced a third challenge in the Walker piece. In this case, external links caused issues of obsolescence. In Walker’s notes, two external links resulted in errors. The first was a link to what was probably once a free online photo gallery of pictures of the original public writing works that were the subject of the public writing class project. The link pointed to http://good-times.webshots.com/album/547607245HsCYRw?action=&track_pagetag=/page/photo/goodtimes/college&track_action=/ViewActions/FullAlbum, but following this URL results in a fancy 404 error page (the standard “page not found” error code recognized by search engines and crawlers) for “Smile by Webshots.” I assume that Webshots (found in the domain of the original URL) was bought or otherwise acquired by Smile, and the original free gallery either expired or was otherwise removed from the original interface.

screenshot

Dead link: Here’s what I saw when I tried to follow the photo gallery link. Notice there is nothing to explain what might have happened to the gallery I was seeking.

The second “dead” external link was to the “Western Herald online Archive” (screen 9 of the web text). In this case, following the URL (http://media.www.westernherald.com/media/storage/paper881/news/2006/02/14/News/English.Class.Explores.Experimental.Writing-2121873.shtml?sourcedomain=www.westernherald.com&MIIHost=media.collegepublisher.com) resulted in a truly dead link, not a 404 error. Based on the variables being passed in the URL, I assume that the Western Herald’s archive at the time of Walker’s writing was hosted by the collegepublisher.com domain. Westernherald.com appears to still be the correct domain for the newspaper, but I could find an archive of back issues or the article via search on the current website.

screenshot

Dead link: Here’s what I saw when I I tried the Western Herald link. There’s something a little whimsical about the error message Chrome offers, as if to suggest perhaps the browser, rather than the link or the user, might have been at fault.

The apparent lack of publicly-accessible archives is a subset of the issue of obsolescence that will likely affect many external links as time goes on.

These issues make me question whether technology-mediated texts should be composed for long-term or archival consumption. In my opinion, this CHAT space is dated, both in design and technology, and should be remediated for 2014 and beyond. But I recognize that texts are created in space and time, and there are real and serious questions about whether they should be “updated” for futures.

References

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.

Bellwoar, H. (2007). Digital health and feminist (Re)visionings of healing [Web text]. In P. Prior et al., Re-situating and re-mediating the Canons: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity [Multimodal composition]. Kairos, 11(3). Retrieved from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/11.3/binder.html?topoi/prior-et-al/index.html

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

Prior, P. (2007). Remaking IO, remaking rhetoric: Semiotic remediation as situated rhetorical practice [Web text]. In P. Prior et al., Re-situating and re-mediating the Canons: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity [Multimodal composition]. Kairos, 11(3). Retrieved from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/11.3/binder.html?topoi/prior-et-al/index.html

Prior, P., Solberg, J., Berry, P., Bellwoar, H., Chewning, B., Lunsford, K. J., Rohan, L., Roozen, K., Sheridan-Rabideau, M. P., Shipka, J., Van Ittersum, D., & Walker, J. R. (2007). Re-situating and re-mediating the Canons: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity [Multimodal composition]. Kairos, 11(3). Retrieved from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/11.3/binder.html?topoi/prior-et-al/index.html

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

Van Ittersum, D. (2007). Data palace: Modern memory work in digital environments [Web text]. In P. Prior et al., Re-situating and re-mediating the Canons: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity [Multimodal composition]. Kairos, 11(3). Retrieved from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/11.3/binder.html?topoi/prior-et-al/index.html

Walker, J. R. (2007). Constructing a BIG text: Developing a multimodal master plan for composition instruction [Web text]. In P. Prior et al., Re-situating and re-mediating the Canons: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity [Multimodal composition]. Kairos, 11(3). Retrieved from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/11.3/binder.html?topoi/prior-et-al/index.html

[Apollo 11 Trajectory Map: Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Ian T. Edwards]

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]

Reading Notes: Miller, Bazerman & Popham walk into this blog…

I appreciate the opportunity this week to reengage with Miller’s work on genre in “Genre as Social Action” and then to see those ideas carried forward into “Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre.” I encountered Miller last semester in an historical review of EDNA-based textbooks in composition studies. Miller’s ideas on the social aspects of genre—rather than the formal or structural aspects I’d learned as an undergraduate and graduate student—opened my eyes to modern composition theory.

Genre as Social Action (Miller)

In “Genre as Social Action” this time around, I found Miller’s ideas on hierarchical levels of discourse more interesting, likely because network hierarchy is in the forefront of my thoughts after last week’s mindmap exercise. Miller identifies form as “metadata” for substance that offers instruction on how the symbolic representation is to be perceived; as a result, “form and substance thus bear a hierarchical relationship to one another” (p. 159). Continuing the hierarchical structure of genre, Miller references Toulmin to argue that context, too, is hierarchical; the result is that “form, substance, and context [are] relative, not absolute; they occur at many levels on a hierarchy of meaning” (p. 159). But not only do these aspects of discourse operate in hierarchical relationship to one another; they also take on different functions at different hierarchical levels: “Thus, form at one level becomes as aspect of substance at a higher level level… although it is still analyzable as form at the lower level” (p. 160). Miller addresses the implications of these hierarchical relationships among “particular features of this understanding of genre” (p. 163): First, genre is fluid and active; it acquires meaning from situation and social context. Second, genre is interpreted using rules. Third, genre is distinct from form. Fourth, genre can serve as the substance of forms at higher levels in hierarchies. Fifth, genre is a rhetorical means for mediating private intent and social exigence (p. 163).

Application to Network

Whiteboard capture - XML

Jamming on XML: CC licensed image from flickr user Paul Downey

Miller’s closing implications relate directly to networks. The interplay among form, substance, and context in discourse enables genre to exist in fluid forms and in hierarchical relationships. If a work in a genre is a network node, its relationship with other works in the genre are governed by the interaction of form, substance, and context. The genre itself can be considered a network node in a network consisting of cultural life; the genre becomes substance to the form of cultural life. I see this similar to the analogy to which I continually return of the web page to the subdomain to the domain. Page, subdomain and domain each act as node and network as the context, form, and substance relate differently to one another.

Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre (Miller)

In “Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre,” Miller connects culture and community to genre in terms of “the general social function being served” (p. 69) by each. Miller claims that rhetorical communities are built on contradiction and contention, “inclusion of sameness and difference, of us and them, of centripetal and centrifugal impulses” (p. 74). As a result, rhetoric “requires both agreement and dissent, sharing understandings and novelty, enthymematic premises and contested claims, identification and division” (p. 74). To this potentially explosive community, Miller applies three forces that rhetorically “keep a virtual community from flying apart (or dissipating)” (p. 74). The first is genre, the second is analogy, and the third is narrative (pp. 74-75).

Application to Network

In this article I found the active nature of the network embedded in the contentious relationships that build virtual rhetorical communities. To these contentious relationships are applied frameworks that enable the networks to function within certain parameters: genre (to provide a contextual, localized structure for nodes), analogy (to provide language that explains difficult-to-explain relationships in more familiar metaphorical terms), and narrative (providing ways to tell the story of the relationships among nodes). These frameworks are flexible and fluid and enable organic growth and dynamic development.

Systems of Genre and the Enactment of Social Intentions (Bazerman)

Monocycle patent - drawing

Monocycle Patent: CC licensed image from flickr user Michael Neubert

Where Miller applies genre to rhetorical communities, Bazerman in “Systems of Genre and the Enactment of Social Intentions” goes a step further to create “a complex web of interrelated genres where each participant makes a recognizable act or move in some recognizable genre, which then may be followed by a certain range of appropriate generic responses by others” (p. 97). Using analysis of patent applications as his object of study, Bazerman introduces the concept of a system of genres—“interrelated genres that interact with each other in specific settings” (like a patent application).

Application to Network

If genres are networks, as suggested by Miller, then genre systems are networks of genres; put another way, genre systems turn genre networks into nodes. This conclusion is consistent with Miller’s conclusion that genres function as nodes in rhetorical communities. It’s also consistent with my understanding of the functions of websites within larger and smaller networks—the website functions itself as a network, but it also functions as a node in the larger network of the internet (or other higher level hierarchies). And there’s the return of that term “hierarchies”—networks appear to be inherently hierarchical depending on their contexts.

Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems (Bazerman)

Bazerman follows up his work on genre systems in “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems” by returning to a clearer understanding of social action, more specific than Miller’s articulation. Bazerman suggests that we can “reach a deeper understanding of genres if we understand them as psycho-social recognition phenomena that are parts of processes of socially organized activities…. They are social facts about the kinds of speech acts people can make and the ways they can make them.” (p. 317, emphasis original). Considered as ways people try to understand one another, genre becomes a means by which we construct our experiences. Bazerman theorizes genre sets as “the collection of types of texts someone in a particular role is likely to produce” (p. 318), texts that others in a similar role would likely produce and understand as well. Using this understanding of genre sets, Bazerman returns to genre system with this more nuanced definition: “a Genre System is comprised of the several genre sets of people working together in an organized way, plus the patterned relations in the production, flow, and use of these documents” (p. 318, emphasis original).

Application to Network

Bazerman concludes that a genre system is itself part of an activity system, and analyzing both a genre system and an activity system results in “a focus on what people are doing and how texts help people do it, rather than on texts as ends themselves” (p. 319). Activity systems include genre systems as nodes in its network; genre systems include genre sets as nodes in its network; genre sets include genres as nodes in its network; genres include texts as nodes in its network, and so on. Networks exist in hierarchies and change status, from network to node and back again, depending on hierarchical context.

Forms as Boundary Genres in Medicine, Science, and Business (Popham)

Medical form image

The Cancer Form: CC licensed image from flickr user Mike Krigsman

Susan L. Popham takes our understandings of genre and activity from Miller and Bazerman and applies them directly to a fascinating object of study: medical forms used in health care practices. She recognizes forms operating as genres in medical practices, but she theorizes the existence of boundary genres, “genres functioning as boundary objects… [that] actively participate in interprofessional struggles about hierarchies, dominance, and values, helping to create, mediate, and store tensions” (p. 283). The tension that Miller (1994) found in rhetorical community Popham finds in boundary genres; these boundary genres enable, even embody, tensions among professions and disciplines. The result of her study reveals the lack of agency that medicine and science have in the medical profession; both disciplines are distilled in the business genre forms that ultimately control the fiscal viability of the practice (p. 296).

Application to Network

Popham’s definition of boundary genres represents network-in-action, actively participating in hierarchical struggles among rhetorical texts, among genres, even among disciplines and professions. Here the genres are struggling among themselves for agency. This struggle gets presented in the OOS of medical practice forms, but the network implications to struggles among disciplines in the English studies supradiscipline are clear. A close analysis of our texts will help us identify our genres, determine our boundary objects, theorize boundary genres, and identify the specific activities that represent the struggles among genres—and therefore among the disciplines and professions they represent.

Conclusions

Once again, I find myself blown away by new ways of seeing discourse in terms of networks. The results are making me rethink, or think more carefully and intentionally, about grading texts, assigning texts, assessing portfolios, and writing my own texts. As I consider the course syllabus as genre, I recognize my tendency to allow the generic form to limit the activity of the text. As I require my students to collect and share portfolio objects in Google Drive, I recognize the lack of careful consideration I gave to the implications of surveillant assemblage. As I consider my textbook, Everything’s An Argument, I’m both drawn to the simplicity of the title and concerned about its willingness to place all texts into a single genre system. These are real issues that affect real students whose agency I should seek to protect. These real students have real abilities and dis-abilities, and I should seek to customize and differentiate instruction to their skills and needs. They are real texts that I should seek to read carefully and respond to with care and attention.

And Then There’s Reggie Watts

Reggie Watts bends boundaries and mixes music, speech, and comedic genres. I think Watts is a boundary genre embodiment.

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.

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.

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

[Plane-blog: CC licensed image from flickr user mutatdjellyfish]