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Mindmap #5: Operationalizing Theories

In this week’s mindmap, I started thinking about big-picture issues, like operationalization and agency.

Mindmap visualization

Mindmap #5: Added Genre Tracing, Locus of Agency, and Operationalization (Popplet)

Theorized vs. Operationalized

In terms of operationalization, I added nodes for Theorized and Operationalized, relating to each of the theories we’ve discussed to date. I found Hardware/Network descriptions matched Genre Tracing as operationalized, while the other theories were, as the name implies, largely theorized. Assessment Theory from my reading of Crow in DWAE made the cut as both operationalized and theorized, too. Foucault I labeled purely theorized, while Rhetorical Theories and Genre Theories offered traces of operationalization, if not quite to the extent of Spinuzzi’s Genre Tracing. Hardware and Network descriptions give us very little of the theorized; they are all about the operationalized.

Locus of Agency

Regarding agency, I add Spinuzzi’s genre tracing as a theory and visualized it, in part, in terms of locus of agency. Centripetal impulses for change have as their locus of agency central authorities, while centrifugal impulses for change have as their locus of agency individual workers (p. 20). Central authority originates and controls the official activity system, so I termed the locus of agency the Activity/Creator Node; local workers originate unofficial workarounds at the operations level, so I terms this locus of agency the Operations/Worker Node. I started the process of applying locus of agency to Crow’s assessment theory, where I proposed that the composition to be assessed falls squarely in the operations/worker node of an assessment network, with the assessment itself (and the surveillant assemblage of assessed assignments) managed and controlled at the activity/creator mode. I’d like to spend a little more time thinking about how locus of agency might be more broadly applicable to these various theorists we’re reading, so I anticipate reworking the mindmap design with this in mind as part of my next update.

Trust in a System

Speaking of the next update, in my last post, Mindmap #4: Drawing Some Genre Lines, I concluded by suggesting I might include trust in the mindmap. I considered how and where to incorporate trust, but I think I found locus of agency a more complex way of addressing issues of trust. Nodes in a network system — or perhaps more accurately an activity system, according to Spinuzzi — can be placed on a continuum between centripetal and centrifugal impulses. Nodes more closely aligned to centripetal impulses are likely to trust centralized agency, while nodes more closely aligned to centrifugal impulses are likely to trust localized agency. In an assessment system, for example, students are likely to align more closely with aspects of the system that offer localized agency, like the freedom to define or envision audience, mode, and other aspects of the rhetorical situation. Administrators are likely to align more closely with aspects of the system that offer centralized agency, like developing consistent rubrics for use in assessments across the system or incorporating a single interface for posting assignments. Teachers are going to be found somewhere in the middle, advocating for localized treatments of rhetorical situation while implementing (or adapting) centralized assessment tools. Students will more likely trust teachers who adapt centralized assessment tools to their localized rhetorical situations; students will less likely trust teachers who implement centralized assessment tools without localized workarounds. Administrators will more likely trust teachers who implement centralized assessment tools without localized workarounds; administrators will less likely trust teachers who adapt centralized assessment tools to their localized rhetorical situations.

Trust becomes the result of a differentiated relationship between impulse and locus of agency. When impulse (on a continuum from centripetal to centrifugal) leans toward centralization, systemic locus of agency is more trusted. When impulse leans toward localization, operational locus of agency is more trusted. I hope to work through this emerging understanding of trust and agency as I continue developing the visualization.

[Killbot Assembly Line: Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user pasukaru76]