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Reading Notes: Class Meeting 2/18/14

CHAT and Genre:

The discussion of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) contradicts then repurposes ideas related to Genre Theory.

First, the authors argue that “CHAT rejects the notion that human action is governed by some neo-platonic realm of rules, whether the linguistic rules of English, the communicative norms of some discourse community, or cognitive scripts for acting in a particular situation” (Prior et al., “What is CHAT”). Genre Theory according to Miller and Bazerman argue quite the opposite. They suggest that human action is a response to a rhetorical situation or a series of social facts, and that the action takes the form of socially constructed and recognizable genres. Yet, the above quote that "communicative norms", or genres, are not at the heart of social activity; rather, they see action as a product of "concrete interactions" between artifacts, people, and tools. This is a departure from Genre Theory in the sense that action is separated from forms and relocated to interactivity.

However, in another sense the authors also seem to repurpose genre as affordances. They write, “As objects and environments are formed and transformed through human activity, they come to embody the goals and social organization of that activity in the form of affordances for use. Affordances do not determine how an artifact is used, but do make particular uses easier or harder” (Prior et al., “What is CHAT”). Affordances are the body of past uses that provide powerful precedents for how an object can be used; the authors are quick to point out that these affordances do not restrict new uses for an object, but they can make uses easier or harder depending on whether they align with past use or challenge it. Genres function in much the same way. When we create discourse according to a particular genre, that process may be easier or harder depending on whether that genre has been used in that way before or whether we are trying to stretch the genre to incorporate new functions.  

Communication and Information Design:

As more communication is delivered digitally as opposed to on paper, the rhetorical concept of delivery has reemerged as significant to acts of communication. This connects clearly to a concept that has emerged in both Zoetewey and Spinuzzi.

Consider Spinuzzi's argument:
"Lately, technical communicators have also sought to align their field more closely with informational design" (5).
Then the claims from Zoetewey:
"Web sites of all stripes are filled with interactivity, from basic, click-able links to write-able forms. Useful interactivity in civic web sites goes beyond basic engagement to help citizens explore, investigate, and solve problems that are of interest to them."
Now the CHAT authors:
“In the last decade or so, another of the classical canons, delivery, has been reanimated as the field's attention has turned to electronic and digital media” (Prior et al, “Delivery Problems).
Each quote speaks to the idea that rhetoric in the digital space requires different sensibilities than communication that exists on the printed page only. Spinuzzi reminds us that digital communication must overlap with information design to take into account the different ways we consume digital information. Zoetewey also highlights this in arguing that assessment of civic web sites must account for the criterion of interactivity - an allowance of digital communication not present in the same way in print form. Interactivity allows for greater engagement as the user can work through the  material in a personal and self-directed way. Thus, civic web sites also require the rhetorician to make use of elements of information design. As the CHAT authors also indicate, the how we deliver content is now as important as what we deliver in the content. The form, once a static printed document, is now often a dynamic digital product. Making use of the enhanced functionality of digital composition is an ever-growing concern for English Studies and instruction of general composition courses at the college level.

UAA's English Department features this Digital Composition Studio that functions much like a traditional writing center in providing tutoring for students composing in digital spaces, highlighting this growing move toward incorporating information technologies into the English discipline.

CHAT and the Underground Press Syndicate:

Embedded in the discussion above is the question of how content is delivered, and the CHAT authors explain that this can be understood as taking two forms: "mediation and distribution” (Prior et al, “Re-mediating and Re-distributing Delivery”). While mediation seems to be concerned with the choices we make about what forms our composition will take (Power Point, video recording, or what font to use for example), distribution is concerned with how our products are handed over to the audience (does it go to an editor first or published online for immediate use?). These questions of distribution stimulated my thinking about the UPS.

Speaking more directly to distribution, the CHAT authors continue, “We may pursue rhetorical goals through a variety of genres, in different media, with different distributions across a series of events and texts” (Prior et al, “Re-mediating and Re-distributing Delivery”). Perhaps for a future case study application, this question of distribution is particularly interesting. With the "rhetorical goals" of building communities of radical and subaltern voices and spreading alternative news, the individual papers first distribute the content to their readerships locally, then send the papers to the UPS for redistribution and potential reprinting in different locales. The UPS then is a crucial element of the rhetorical canon of delivery.

CHAT and the Work of the Underground Press Movement:

This text also bore some interesting connections to my research with the underground press movement at large.
  • “A ‘good’ rhetoric neglected by the press obviously cannot be so ‘communicative’ as a poor rhetoric backed nation-wide by headlines” (Burke qtd. in Prior et al, “The Rhetorical Scene”). This seems to speak to the movement's purpose for being. The contributors to the movement would argue that the mainstream media promoted "poor rhetoric", misleading stories about success in Vietnam for instance, while "good rhetoric" was being ignored and therefore not communicated. The power of the mainstream media to spread unreliable or unrepresentative rhetoric needed to counteracted by an alternative media that would focus on "good rhetoric".
  • “For Goffman, audiences are constantly active, co-producers of the configuration of footings and the discourse itself” (Prior et al, “The Rhetorical Scene”). Readers of underground publications often participated in the movement by reflecting the values read within the pages out into their communities. The movement articulated in the pages of the newspapers relied on the actions of the readers and vice-versa - one reinforced the other. In this way, the discourse of the counterculture movement was co-produced by the texts and the audiences.
  • “Plato (1989) defined (true) rhetoric as a psychagogia—the leading or formation of people's souls through discourse (public and private)” (Prior et al, “Society and Socialization”). When I've interviewed editors and writers of these publications, however successful or unsuccessful the paper might have been, the genuine desire to effect positive change as suggested by the quote was always there. The participants in the movement often risked harassment by local authorities or other negative consequences, yet the belief in the cause was strong enough to overcome those drawbacks. It was a sincere hope that readers and communities would be altered by the contents, that social and political change would occur as the souls of people were touched and shaped.
  • “Although alone physically in these stacks I knew I was not alone spiritually, if you will” (Rohan). Rohan's work with venting is particularly applicable to the underground press movement, as the produced discourse in both instances is about building a community even when created in isolation. The venters write alone, but the “participants’ [have] collective participation in a larger ecology” (Rohan). They “tell stories about what it’s like to live in a particular time and place, who might care and why” (Rohan). If someone in the South, relatively isolated from the radical communities of New York or Berkeley, was able to pick up an underground newspaper from another more active group, then he or she could participate in that larger ecology; they would know that although physically separated, they were not spiritually separated. The telling of stories was their subversive way of building a network to spread support and information.
  • “Taken together, these texts created a remarkably effective information network, one supplemented by talks given to women’s clubs and interviews broadcast over the radio. This network thus capitalized on existing social, institutional, and media channels to circulate and cement the common (if sometimes contradictory) wisdom growing up around office work in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s” (Solberg). Much like the secretary manuals Solberg speaks of, the underground press functioned as part of a network supplemented by protests, meetings, sit-ins, concerts, and media broadcasts. The wisdom of the movement built upon existing channels (or genres like newspapers) in order to circulate. 
Rohan and Solberg on Memory:

Memory has factored significantly into my interests as an archivist. Rohan and Solberg both speak to memory as part of the rhetorical canon.

Rohan argues that the venting is "a system for memory keeping and memory making.” Each phrase added to the grate is an artifact. Artifacts can be reused by others to make new artifacts, so the constant reuse and recursive nature of artifacts maintains collective memory. 

Solberg describes how a secretary "needed to "remember" (for herself and her employer) in order to keep those around her happy and keep the office running smoothly. This memory work thus took the forms of emotional and organizational work."

These two ideas complicate my previous thinking of memory by adding such a strong emotional attachment to the concept. In terms of memory, it is obvious that old photographs or cherished childhood memories lend themselves to an overall contentment, but collective memory and the facilitation of a "happy" work place are new ideas.

How does memory work outside the individual? How does my memory contribute to a collective? How does the application of individual or collective memory create a happy environment?

I would like to see how these questions relate to other texts we read going forward, and how they might be answered by previous or future readings.

Works Cited:

Prior, Paul, et al. “Delivery Problems." Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity. Kairos 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

---. “Re-mediating and Re-distributing Delivery." Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical ActivityKairos 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

---. “The Rhetorical Scene.” Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical ActivityKairos 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

---. “Society and Socialization,” Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical ActivityKairos 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 17 Feb. 2014. 

---. “What is CHAT." Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical ActivityKairos 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Rohan, Liz. "Nobody Told Me That College Was This Hard!: 'Venting' in the Grad Stacks." Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical ActivityKairos 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Solberg, Janine. "Re-membering Identity: Recovering Textual Networks Through a Remediated Canon." Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical ActivityKairos 11.3 (Summer 2007). Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres Through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. Print.

Zoetewey, Meredith W., W. Michele Simmons, Jeffrey T. Grabill. "Assessing Civic Engagement: Responding to Online Spaces for Public Deliberation." Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Eds. Heidi A McKee and Danielle Nicole DeVoss. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State UP, 2013. Web. 3 Feb 2014.

Reading Notes: Class Meeting 2/11/14

Thoughts on the Reading:

Melding English with Technology:

If the theme of last week for me was archive, then this week surely the theme has been critical making. Ever since reading the Zoetewey chapter of civic web sites, I have been thinking about the idea of scholars becoming increasingly engaged in the creation of technological products - a kind of "critical making", a term I encountered in a 2014 MLA conference CFW. I wrote about it here in my Mind Map and then again here in my discussion of my peers' annotations. Like I noted in the latter entry, it seems that the ideas with which we are most engaged are the ideas with which we see the most connections, so it is no surprise that my first connection this week is with critical making again.

Consider Spinuzzi's claim here:
"Lately, technical communicators have also sought to align their field more closely with informational design" (5).
In English Studies, we often are involved in communication; we deal with understanding and teaching rhetorical convention to aid in the communication of ideas and argument, traditionally in written forms. However, as the forms of communication are moving from paper to binary code, our discipline is having to incorporate knowledge from the informational design field.

An example of this is in our blog requirements for this course. We have format options that build upon the values of good information design. We take advantage of the digital space and add links, embedded images, and videos. We understand that information must be presented differently in these different spaces; people read and digest it differently. The form requires design elements that differ from the elements of form and style needed for successful academic essays. Our job as communicators of academic discourse must now envelope the tools of the information designer as we work and teach in digital space. Critical making requires the understanding of design as well as of content.

Implications of User vs. System Centered Design:

Spinuzzi explores the spectrum of design as it spans between user-centered and system-centered approaches. In the user-centered approach, the user is "empowered". The design is concerned with the needs of the users and their preferences for operation; however, these preferences may be at odds with the efficiency of the system or ease of production. A system-centered design would create a product without consideration of the users, leading to the their "dis-empowerment". He elaborates the idea with the notion of "democratic empowerment" and "functional empowerment" (13). The former being the power that comes from true user control over the design experience, the latter being only the limited powers given to the users from the system.

I saw in this description a resemblance to the emergence of the underground press movement. The media in the late 60s could be considered a form of system-centered design. The mainstream newspapers, radio, and television broadcasts held the control and the power over the content. Communities of users not finding in that content a reflection of their own values were disempowered and disenfranchised; they resorted to creating their own publications, a kind of "workaround" Spinuzzi discusses as user-created solutions to problems in their environment. The user-centered design of the UP movement publications provided democratic empowerment to the creators and readers where the functional empowerment of the mainstream media limited discourse and action to only that which it allowed. They were built on the idea that "knowledge [is] constructed through community created knowledge and action", the methodological foundation of user-centered design (Johnson qtd. in Spinuzzi 8).

Image posted on

Interestingly, Spinuzzi continues to explore this dichotomy and explains that user-centered designs can tend toward the chaotic and unorganized while the system-centered designs tend to be inflexible (21). This is also applicable to the UP with many publications only lasting several weeks or months as different contributors' visions competed with one another. On the other hand, mainstream media publications now find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy as they are too large and inflexible to accommodate the users' shifting modes of information gathering.

The Mesoscopic Level and Bazerman

Spinuzzi defines three levels of genres: the macroscopic, mesoscopic, and microscopic. We are familiar with the "big-picture" and "small details" associated with the macro and micro levels, but the mesoscopic level is a new and unfamiliar idea. This mid-level is, for Spinuzzi, the level of activity. If the macro level is the abstract cultural ramifications of genre, and the micro level are the processes and operations employed by genres, then the mesoscopic level are "the tasks in which people are consciously engaged" (33). It is on the level that action takes places; it is the place where the user makes use of the microscopic level to engage in the activities needed to accumulate into the macroscopic level.

Spinuzzi also discusses Leont'ev's work in the context of the mesoscopic level. The importance of this level is grounded in the notion of small activities building toward significant human activities. Leont'ev explains, "Human activity does not exist except in the form of action of a chain of actions" (qtd. in Spinuzzi 33). All of human activity - no matter how revolutionary or impactful - is made up of many smaller actions. Is this a ground-breaking observation? Perhaps not, but it does remind us that large tasks (like earning a doctorate) can only be achieved through many small chains of action and individual activities (like writing a blog post).

But this idea also connects our thinking to Bazerman, who situates genres within a system of human activity as tools used to accomplish particular actions. I took the image I created on last week's blog post and added Spinuzzi's three levels, although there is room for debate over what we can consider as belonging to each level. Ultimately, I decided that social facts are the minute details that form the microscopic level, since Bazerman does not associate activity with the facts; they simply exist as truths. However, speech acts and the recognizable generic forms that they create are activities and do work in society thus making up the mesoscopic level. These actions can be viewed from above and organized into sets and systems as the macroscopic level.

Graphic depicting Bazerman's hierarchy of genre with Spinuzzi's genre levels 

Spinuzzi Aligns with Action-Focused Theories of Genre

Anyone reading this blog has probably noted an emphasis on and preference for aspects of English Studies that move beyond the boundaries of the ivory tower, so I enjoyed Spinuzzi's claims that genres function as social tools. He argues that genres are "traditions of producing, using, and interpreting artifacts" (41) and function "in a mediatory role" (40). This mediatory role is reminiscent of Miller's assertion that genres mediate  or translate action between the mind and society (Miller 71).

However, Spinuzzi also emphasizes tradition, an addition to the kind of action-genre vision of Bazerman and Miller. Spinuzzi claims, "Genres are doubly-oriented: they are oriented toward history and addressivity" (42). The addressivity is the same idea Bazerman and Miller propose, the idea that genres do work by addressing particular issues. However, history adds a nuanced idea. Spinuzzi's history is a kind of "social memory" that stabilizes the way genres are interpreted, formed, and changed (43). Bazerman and Miller also argue that genre is a social construct, but they do not place any emphasis on tradition. By their definition, genres can be constructed anew at any moment, but Spinuzzi seems to posit that historicity is inextricable from genre production.

There is also a connection to Popham's boundary objects. He writes, "Any given genre is used to mediate activities in one or more activity systems" (48). Spinuzzi's genre can be utilized by different authors/designers for different purposes, which also reminds me of the alternative use criterion associated with the Zoetewey chapter. Genre boundaries are fluid and mutable, like network nodes that can have multiple and disparate connections.

Genre-tracing and Implications for Research:

Spinuzzi explains a method for conducting genre-tracing by collecting data from each of the thee levels explained above (52-71). He argues that contradictions occur at the macroscopic level, which are caused by discoordinations at the mesoscopic level that lead to breakdowns at the microscopic level. This type of analysis can be a powerful approach to understanding genre-related activity and lead to important ramification for the design of future activities (56).

I started to think about how I could apply this kind approach to my own study of the underground press. There is frustratingly little scholarship about the movement; although, there is a wealth of primary documents and several good examples of reflections and histories. I feel the need to seek out the theoretical underpinnings of the movement as justification for the movement's inclusion in academic discourse as something beyond a "hippie" thing, so Spinuzzi's method intrigues me with possibilities.

For example, one of the contradictions is whether underground press publications are alternative news or artistic expressions. There is tension between the often blended purposes of the publications. This can be traced to the discoordination at the individual papers with some titles focused on politics and editorials with others more concerned with satire and graphic elements. These discoordinations often resulted in breakdowns of the genre, the splintering of papers attempting to "reperceive and remanage genres" (71).

The tools for the application of this approach also suit the work I can do and have done: retrospective interviews and document analysis for example (52). This, along with Bazerman's method of genre investigation, are potentially strong avenues for exploration in my dissertation. I am intrigued to see how seeing the underground press as a genre could strengthen the movement's position in the discipline.

I plan to apply genre theory to my OoS, so that could be a fruitful exercise as a prelude to this further exploration of genre.

Works Cited:

Bazerman, Charles. “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People”. What Writing Does and How It Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. Eds. Charles Bazerman and Paul Prior. Taylor and Francis e-library, 2008. 309-340. Print.

Miller, Carolyn. “Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre”. Genre and the New Rhetoric. Eds. Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway. London: Taylor and Francis, 1994. 23-42. Print.
Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres Through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. Print.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres Through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. Print.

Zoetewey, Meredith W., W. Michele Simmons, Jeffrey T. Grabill. "Assessing Civic Engagement: Responding to Online Spaces for Public Deliberation." Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Eds. Heidi A McKee and Danielle Nicole DeVoss. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State UP, 2013. Web. 3 Feb 2014.

Assignment: Annotated Bibliography Part 1 – Entry


Zoetewey, Meredith W., W. Michele Simmons, Jeffrey T. Grabill. "Assessing Civic Engagement: Responding to Online Spaces for Public Deliberation." Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Eds. Heidi A McKee and Danielle Nicole DeVoss. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State UP, 2013. Web. 3 Feb 2014.


The primary concern explored in this chapter is the evaluation of student-produced civic web sites; these web sites are defined as "community-based digital spaces that can be used to enable public deliberation."

The authors explain that there is an inherent difficulty with assessing civic web sites in that usefulness - the ultimate goal of a civic web site - can only be determined after the public has had a chance to utilize the site. However, a student will need a grade at the end of a semester before the public has had that chance to interact with the final project students produce. If the site cannot be evaluated based on its usefulness to the public, then what criteria and methods can be employed to determine a fair evaluation?

The authors are clear to distinguish between "usefulness" and "usability." Usability is a site that is easy to use, makes efficient use of graphics and interfaces. Usefulness is the idea that a site helps users "do better work"; the site supports learning and knowledge-making.

Civic web sites can be difficult to assess because traditional rubrics favor usability when evaluating digital products; concepts like simplicity, scanable content, and efficiency are privileged. However, civic web sites have a different purpose, which is to provide users with deeper educational content, unfettered access to data, and communicates in specialized vocabularies specific to the field. These criteria are often incompatible with traditional usability rubrics, requiring an alternative method for evaluation.

The authors explain their concept of "productive usability" which accounts for these advanced needs and is based on the features that users of civic web sites have identified as being important to the work they wanted to do. Productive usability is based on three main criteria: consideration of alternative use, consideration of technical literacy, and consideration of interactivity.

Alternative use is the idea that site creators should consider the multiple ways in which the information may be of use to the public, and they should plan for the kinds of alternative uses that might occur that differ from the creators' intentions. For example, the creators may want a civic web site that provides information for policy makers, but the site may also be visited by citizens looking to become involved in a cause. The site should be evaluated based on whether the creators accounted for the multiplicity of purpose in visiting the site.

Technical literacy is the idea that the civic web site is educational at its core, and if people visiting the site are to be able to participate in the discourse, they must have the fluency in the specific jargon used therein. There must also be an inclusion of full-text reports and other data that can be read and interpreted by the user. Technical literacy is the term applied to the jargon and data, and it should be evident on the site in links to data or the inclusion of glossaries.

Interactivity is the idea that visitors to the site must be engaged in order to participate in the discourse surrounding the particular civic issue being highlighted online. Interactivity is the pathway to engagement by building emotional and psychological connections to the issue. The site should encourage various forms of interaction to build the sense of engagement and ultimately action. Evidence might take the form of photographs designed to induce an empathetic response or a place devoted to user uploaded narratives.

Finding indicators of the three criteria above should also be combined with evidence of the students' process in creating the site. Process-based evidence might include journal-style work logs, which track the groups' discussion and implementation of the three criteria.

By evaluating a civic web site based on the indicators and process-based evidence of the three criteria of productive usability, instructors will be able to confidently assess student-produced digital spaces before the public has a chance to determine their usefulness outside the academic exercise.

Connections to Course Readings:

  • The article describes civic web sites as having "the potential to aid change in communities." This is reminiscent of Miller's work with genre. She explains that we can view genre as being able "to marshal linguistic resources for the sake of social action" (71 "Rhetorical Community"). She continues to argue that genres help "communities do their work and carry out their purposes" (75 "Rhetorical Community"). There are also connections to Popham's claim that "genres are the means by which things get done within a community, ideas get transmitted, and plans get made" (281-2). Both civic web sites and genres are significant because of the work they can perform with a community, for their ability to create action and change. 
  • This ability for the audience to perform social action is also linked to the claims by Bitzer. He argues that the "rhetor alters reality by bringing into existence a discourse of such a character that the audience, in thought and action, is so engaged that it becomes mediator of change” (4). Here, the rhetor can be understood as the makers of civic web sites. They bring the site into existence much like Bitzer's rhetorical discourse and the audience reached becomes engaged in the topic enough to foster change. The term engaged is significant especially since interactivity to increase engagement is on of the three criteria the article proposes to use for evaluation. Furthermore, the civic web site is evaluated based on usefulness - the concept that the user can "do better work". This doing of work by the audience is the same as Bitzer's argument that "rhetorical discourse produces change by influencing the decision and action of persons who function as mediators of change" (7). Civic web sites provide the tools and information needed for the audience to do work that will ultimately change a community.
  • The concept of alternative use is related to Popham's ideas about boundary objects. Popham states that "a boundary object serves the needs of multiple sites or multiple professions" (284). This is exactly what makers of civic web sites must take into consideration under the article's proposed evaluative criteria. The site should be agile enough to meet the needs of users that the site-creators may not have in mind as the initial audience; it should be a boundary object that can serve the needs of multiple users. There is also the Bazerman idea from the chapter "Systems of Genres and the Enactment of Social Intentions" embedded here that there is a "multiplicity of action" (90) in texts with multiple intentions and interpretations possible from the same speech-act (87). Alternative use suggests that civic web sites have multiplicity, the potential to be useful to the community in more than one way. 
  • We can also see connection to Foucault in the discussion. Consider the following quote from the article: "[The alternative use criterion] requires seeing the audience in context, considering how the information relates to a range of stakeholders, and positioning them as active participants, capable of exploring their own interests." In this sense, the civic web site becomes meaningful in terms of its relations. Foucault is interested in scholars' ability to "analyse the interplay of [concepts'] appearances and dispersion" (35). Creators of civic web sites are evaluated on how well they can analyze how information relates to various audiences, how the active participants will be positioned against the information provided, and where they will be dispersed throughout the field.
  • Foucault is also present in interactivity as the concept is grounded in the theory that there should be "no pre-set entry points or stopping points" (Mirel qtd. in Zoetewey). This is discussed in context of the notion that interactivity and engagement can be reached through user-guided explorations. The web site should be designed in such a way to support this free exploration without pre-set starts and stops. This is like Foucault's ideas about general history versus total description. He writes, "A total description draws all phenomena around a single center - a principle, a meaning, a spirit, a world-view, an overall shape; a general history, on the contrary, would deploy the space of dispersion" (10). By building in a principle of free exploration to enhance engagement, the civic web site is less structured or restrictive, much like the general history using the "space of dispersion". Users are allowed to move as they will through the dispersed space, leading himself or herself to the knowledge and connections important to them. 

Works Cited:

Bazerman, Charles. “Systems of Genres and the Enactment of Social Intentions”. Genre and the New Rhetoric. Eds. Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway. London: Taylor and Francis, 1994. 79-104. Print.

Bitzer, Lloyd F.. “The Rhetorical Situation”. Philosophy & Rhetoric 25 Selections from Volume 1 (1992): 1-14. Print.

Foucault, Michel. Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. Print.

Miller, Carolyn R.. “Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre”. Genre and the New Rhetoric. Eds. Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway. London: Taylor and Francis, 1994. 23-42. Print.

Popham, Susan L.. “Forms as Boundary Genres in Medicine, Science, and Business”. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 19 (2005): 279-303. Print.

Zoetewey, Meredith W., W. Michele Simmons, Jeffrey T. Grabill. "Assessing Civic Engagement: Responding to Online Spaces for Public Deliberation." Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Eds. Heidi A McKee and Danielle Nicole DeVoss. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State UP, 2013. Web. 3 Feb 2014.