“Geocomposition in Public Rhetoric and Writing Pedagogy” by Nathaniel A. Rivers
Rivers presents a unique point of view on something that I’ve been familiar with for a while now (even if I don’t do it as much as I used to). The argument is simple: Rivers is making an argument for the consideration of geography when considering composition and rhetoric using the example of an example using geocaching. The assignment combines two of the most important qualities of good writing: being collaborative and public. Rivers makes the argument that geography has an impact on a person’s experience of the world. By that same logic, physical acts, like placing a geocache, involve some level of premeditation in composition and have a certain effect to the way an individual interacts with a particular text.
I’ve been geocaching before with some of my friends who are a bit more enthusiastic about hiking, and the most profound part of the experience was the impact finding the geocache had on our trip, that would have otherwise been uneventful. It always found some way to shift our point of view by either directing our attention or providing some extra information about the geographic location. This idea of geocomposition opens up a whole new world of rhetorical analysis and vastly expands the definition of what could be considered a text. I think this concept, on the whole, represents an entire dimension of non-digital composition that surrounds us on a daily basis. In a world where we are constantly inundated with digital information, we often become unable to appreciate our surroundings. This type of rhetoric would be an analog rhetoric almost pervasive as the digital rhetoric that surrounds us in the form of mass media.
What would be some other examples of geocomposition (like Rivers’ of geocaching)?
“What I Learned from the Campus Plumber” by Charles Bergman
In this essay, Bergman explores the role of geography in the learning process. From the implicit metaphor of college as an intellectual retreat to the ways learning is encoded into the campus itself. Bergman titles the metaphor the “academic pastoral,” revealing that the abstract concept of the university supersedes reality.
In this vein, Bergman provides some direct cross-talk to Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University,” suggesting that the university Bartholomae describes is more an intellectual abstraction that students must invent the series of ideas that will come to represent the university. Bergman connects this to Geocomposition by making the argument that by making the university a real place, then the environment becomes a real thing rather than an abstract idea that will hopefully change the way students protect their local ecology.
This fits into the conservationist idea of geocomposition I had when I first saw the term, how to use rhetoric to increase awareness about how we impact the environment around us. I think that students often disconnect from the learning they do and the places they do it. There are still parts of AUM that I’ve never explored and I’ve been either attending classes here or teaching classes here for more than a decade. There are still ways the campus works that I don’t fully understand. One of the most fascinating parts of being an administrative assistant was learning just how things got done within the university. Understanding the way the university managed student information, grades, work orders, and university sponsored travel. I think that Bergman makes an extremely salient point in the abstract idea we as a society have about the university as the ivy-covered, intellectual retreat that provides students the means to transition from childhood to adulthood and enter the workplace equipped with the tools they need to succeed.
What are some ways we can use writing to help students understand the rhetoric of geography?
“Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery” by Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss (2009)
Ridolfo and DeVoss in their article explore the concept of rhetorical velocity. This concept describes the strategies authors’ use to anticipate future remixing of their own work. Their argument centers around the idea that because of technological advances, we now live in “rewrite culture” and it is important to take how a text will be re-composed in the process of composition. A text has a certain velocity within this “rewrite culture” of how a text will be appropriated and remixed by a third party. This concept is facilitated by the interconnection digital writing technologies has created.
Ridolfo and DeVoss cite the work of Lawrence Lessig, a lawyer who has done extensive scholarship into remix culture and the role of intellectual property in that culture. Ridolfo and DeVoss talk about a concept that is present in all of our students’ texts and it is one that connects that academic writing to students’ real lives outside the classroom. This idea of “rewrite culture” is important for students understanding of where the academic genres they learn in the classroom interact with those outside the classroom.
How do we integrate the idea of rhetorical velocity into our pedagogy?
“Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” by Kathleen Blake Yancey (2004)
Yancey talks about what she refers to as a “tectonic” shift in the definition of literacy in reaction to the rapid evolution of digital technology. She explores the ways in which new technology has changed the nature of composition and people’s attitudes towards it. She presents her argument in four “quartets” that considers a different aspect of change that the digital revolution has brought to the process of composition. These shifts are what initiated the tectonic shift Yancey talks about in our definition of literacies.
This is something I’ve experienced first-hand, especially in Basic Writing, because the work required in first year writing classes has become increasingly dependent on technology that non-traditional students might not be as literate in as their traditional, and most of the time younger, counterparts. There have been a few situations where I’ve allowed students to use pen and paper instead of typing or keeping a journal instead of creating a blog. This helps remove obstacles their lack of digital literacy might have caused in class.
How can we address our assumptions about students’ digital literacy?
“The Politics of the Interface: Power and Its Exercise in Electronic Contact Zones” by Cynthia L. Selfe and Richard J. Selfe, Jr.
Selfe and Selfe explore the way in which a minority is privileged in the use of computer interfaces and digital technology because of the linguistic supremacy of Standard English. The open their article with an anecdote about an Indian colleague experiencing profiling and racism while crossing the Mexican border. They use this story as a starting point to explore the “cultural values that the story revealed.”
These values extend into what Selfe and Selfe (referring to them like this is getting a bit comical at this point) describe as an overly-optimistic rhetoric of technology. They also consider how this privileges primarily white-collar inhabitants of a corporate culture that dominates the use of computer interfaces in the workplace and thus shapes the way they are used pedagogically.
This is another thing I’ve experienced in Basic Writing classes dealing with multilingual learners. In my graduate coursework, I was exposed to a plethora of new composing technologies that I thought were amazing and wonderful. But when I began teaching, especially with multilingual students, I found more resistance to using these innovative tools. More often than not, the resistance was based around the technology being an obstacle because they had to not only learn how to write in a second language, but now also learn a new computer interface in a second language. Some students resist learning a new way of presenting their thinking, but other, multilingual students present a resistance that is a response to the dominance of Standard English in these writing technologies.
How can we make these amazing web-based composing applications more accessible to those of differing or nontraditional backgrounds?
“From analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing” by Diana George
Diana George talks about something near and dear to my heart: visual rhetoric. More specifically the history of visual argument in composition instruction through history. She traces it from it’s the first mention of mass media in composition studies in the 1960s to its surge to prominence with the rise of expressivism’s popularity in the 70s. In the 80s arguments were made for the use of film in composition instruction
Even after the cultural turn in the 80s, there was still contention over the place of visual thinking in writing instruction. George, writing from 2002, writes about scholars like J. Anthony Blair who begrudgingly acknowledge visual argument as a part of effective writing instruction. She makes the point that as it stood when the article was written in 2002, that the role of visual argument was relegated to “shadow assignments” like ad analysis because of the ubiquity of mass media. George states that visual argument links both high and low culture, allowing students to embrace their multiple literacies and provide ways to negotiate the obstacles of expressing themselves through the written word.
Visual rhetoric is something that I’ve always been fond of having written my Master’s thesis on genre theory and film. Every semester I teach a course with a unit devote to analysis, I choose to do analysis of advertisements or film because they allow students a more accessible way to express what they see. It creates a more meaningful metaphor for them to develop understandings of the rhetorical concepts in the course goals.
This article was written in 2002; there has been a great deal of technological breakthroughs since then. How has the research into computers and technology since then changed the role of visual argument in composition pedagogy?
“Professing Multiculturalism: The Politics of Style in the Contact Zone” by Min-Zhan Lu
This article builds upon the idea that writing processes are socially constructed to examining the ways in which they are culturally constructed. Lu interrogates the standards “educated america” that put those of a different cultural background at a disadvantage. She highlights this through the examples of Gertrude Stein versus Theodore Dreiser by comparing their reactions to criticism of their work. The double standards that these two reactions to requests for revision is what Lu believes prevents us from valuing cultural difference in the writing classroom.
Lu cites Shaughnessy’s Errors and Expectations when talking about the importance of error analysis when looking at the writing of those with different backgrounds. She references Pratt’s concept of the “contact zone” in the title because the article interrogates the power relationships that accompany difference highlighted by the contact zone. This is something I’ve experienced in the Basic Writing classroom as students (not only multi-lingual students) attempt to negotiate their own backgrounds, as underprepared traditional students or rusty non-traditional students, to meet the standards of the academy.
If the “unequal sociopolitical power of diverse discourses” restricts students’ agency in their writing, then what could be done to embrace difference as a diagnostic tool?
“Memoria Is a Friend of Ours: On the Discourse of Color” by Victor Villanueva
Villanueva writes about memory, more specifically personal history, and its importance to developing a theory of writing that embraces students with varying backgrounds. He looks at the idea of the hybrid self where multiple voices exist at once within one individual. Villanueva posits that embracing all the voices of a person’s cultural background is important to understanding the discourses student writing reflects.
Memory is one of the most important tools of a first-year teaching instructor. Reflective writing creates an opportunity to students to develop an understanding of how their past experiences have influenced their thoughts and beliefs today. This representation of the multiplicity of voices present within one individual explains how writing helps develop an understanding of how different backgrounds inform relationships between what Lu referred to as “the student writer” and “the real writer.” Villanueva believes that the only way to negotiate the difference between student and real writer is the embracing of memory and narrative as vital parts of the writing process. Inquiry in the form of reflection through narrative exploration of past experiences creates a place for writing instruction to embrace cultural difference.
How can we use memory to teach writing as a method of interrogating cultural identity and what does that have to do with how we teach writing?
“Composing as a Woman” by Elizabeth Flynn
My contribution to this discussion of Feminist and composition studies will always be precariously placed because I am a man.
The main issue Flynn explores in this article is the differences between male and female writing processes. Flynn states that, through the examination of both male and female narratives, women tend to relate experiences through their relationships with a group whereas men mostly describe experiences where they overcame obstacles by themselves.
Flynn examines how the attempt to universalize the writing process, we create an imbalance. One that results, as Flynn describes it, “Men become the standard against which women are judged.” I can relate to what Flynn calls the “feminization” of composition studies as most of the scholarship I have been exposed to is more expressivist and based on efforts rather than adherence to standards.
Thinking about how I’ve seen both male and female students attempt to express their experiences, I can see the patterns in how the two groups relate their experiences to the period of their life they took place in. It’s hard to relate to this reading other than understanding the difference Flynn is refers to because I have to experience to apply to this knowledge in that I have never been a woman or experienced how my voice is received.
It was hard for me to formulate a point to this reading other than to interrogate the different ways men and women express themselves and their experiences.
How can we establish a standard that includes the spectrum of differences between men and women (since we establishes that it was inaccurate to restrict categorization to the binary of “masculine” and “feminine”)?
“When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own” by Jacqueline Jones Royster
Royster’s title really encapsulates the point she is trying to make in the description of these three “scenes” in her article. These scenes are designed to provide insight into the experience of an African American woman expressing her voice in a male-dominated field. Each scene shows how her own experiences, in one way or another, becomes mediated by some third party.
The first scene shows how her position as “the Other” while tolerantly accepting another’s perception of her own experience. The lesson being: “we must be trained to respect points of view other than our own.” Just like women’s voices, the voices of other marginalized groups must be treated with respect and not discredit due to their difference. We should not penalize difference but rather celebrate it, just as we celebrate writing in its un-finished-ness like Murray prescribes.
The second scene talks about the idea of cultural appropriation, or what Royster terms as the “trespass vision” based on the work of Tillie Olsen. It is something she chooses to transcend in the quest to emulate W.E.B. DuBois in straddling borders for the purpose of allowing one side deeper insight into the other. Lifting “the Veil” as DuBois puts it.
The third scene is one where someone in the audience of one of Royster’s lectures makes a large presumption about the role of “voice” in her presentation. She explores the hybrid nature of colonial and post-colonial society and its role in creating methods of crossing the boundaries of discourse communities.
I have seen, and sadly been the perpetrator of, many of these injustices in forcing students to conform to an academic standard or discounting their personal experience in lieu of the conventions of academic writing. Many of the concepts Royster talks about are extremely interesting when you think of them in terms of multilingual learners who don’t have the benefit of fluency atop their hybrid identities.
If we are moving to thinking of knowledge being socially constructed to being culturally constructed? If so, how does culture inform how knowledge is created via language, appropriated or not? How do we create a theory of writing that allows a variety of voices to speak for themselves without discounting them?