5365: Working Toward a Paper

I’m not quite into my introduction for this paper yet, but working that way.  Here’s the broad scope of what I think I’d like to do.  Now I’ve just got to research it, poke holes in it, and see how flat my ‘thesis’ falls on its face.  Style colleagues, please feel free to rip, shred, suggest, ask, and otherwise comment freely!

“We have way of getting so used to the technologies of writing that we come to think of them as natural rather than technological.” (46)

Awfully Working Title: The Role of Technology and Materiality in (Stylistic) Value Systems

  • Situate & Define Style
    • my definition, in context w/others, identify versions of ‘natural’ as significant value. (need other defs, concrete choices)
  • Theory and Argument: Establish “naturalness” as a significant value:
    • voiced-unvoiced; opaque-transparent styles  (Lanham, “naturalness” 189)
      • Lanham, the trouble with Dichotomies
    • naturalness as a ‘false’ value
      • Plato and true/false rhetoric?
      • natural (human) vs technological (nonhuman)
      • natural (real) vs artificial (fake)  (comes up in Bolter & Grusin, iirc)
      • However, it’s all artificial/technological (argue from Baron, Haas, Vygotsky, &more)
    • style “inherent in action” (Thomas & Turner in Dilger 2010) but also affected in complex ways by technology (Haas &beyond).
  • “Thesis”
    • Ubiquity/popularity of writing technology influences stylistic values; a key (false) value is “naturalness,” as this value has a great deal to do with what we accept as valuable texts or appropriate style in texts.
    • The complaint is always “Johnny can’t write sentences/essays/anything.” One part of this call is our own use of “natural” as a value judgment, because ubiquitous writing technologies change, thus constantly shifting what’s valued as ‘natural.’
  • Main Context/Exploration Site for Paper: teacher/student value systems & a ubiquitous technology: templates, fill-in-the- box writing, Esp blogs and social networking/media texts.
    • establish social media texts as ‘fill in the box’/template writing; impt element of web 2.0 & participatory tech.
    • style judgments:
      • stylistic features: text is kairotic, contextual, informal, the “just-in-time” writing, the hot idea that is rapidly entered into text, the text that isn’t stable but can be remolded and revised after the fact of publication; etcetera (need more research here)
      • negative style judgments: templates & boxwriting seen as current-traditional to process (& even postprocess) teachers. text is mechanistic (templates stifle creativity), not “real” from individual. filling-in-a-blank isn’t writing; etcetera.  (need research here)
    • connect to other ‘template’ pedagogies historically (Graff will be useful here)
  • Return to Thesis: Question:
    • What role does ‘naturalness’ play in techno-stylistic value judgments such as the above?
      • are we resisting the style or the tech?
    • Could ‘fill in the box writing’, or templates, traditionally dismissed in intro writing, be a useful method for teaching style? writing? Do templates hamper style? Or would it simply be commodifying elements of the participatory web and retooling them for our own discourse situations?
    • In resisting stylistic change, do we fail to move with meaningful change?  What part of “Johnny can’t write!” is our toeing an important line? What part of this call is our holding to a false sense of naturalness?
  • Potential problems/counterarguments:
    • Does this lead me marching inevitably to stylistic relativism?
    • Other holes, please?
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One thought on “5365: Working Toward a Paper

  1. Chris,

    Some notes.

    – First quote is missing something in the first few words.
    – In your title, are you looking at specific writing technologies or a specific one?
    – What I have always found is that style must be defined within a context, in part because all is rhetoric. What will be your context?
    – Is naturalness a context? This reminds me a book called Computers in Four Keys, which used nature as a category of comp/rhet.
    – I think what makes naturalness false is an assumed context for it. That is, it still is contextless unless tied to a situation, because as Plato’s cave tells us, nothing is natural, it’s all perspective.
    – Your thesis reminds me of the idea Rhonda has about resumes and formatting. That is, to some people visual design is “natural.” That is, if it isn’t well-formatted it doesn’t look good and therefore isn’t good. To another generation or group of people less visually literate, formatting is less than natural. Is resume writing that identifies visual elements as identifiers for credibility something that can be seen as discriminatory then?
    – I like your mention of Graff and connecting this to a much larger framework. It seems to me that there is literal natural about education; that is, it is formulaic for assessment and financial and equality reasons to the degree that it sometimes takes the learner out of the equation. Doesn’t matter what you want to do with your degree, you’re doing this tract. The student has the onus to make it fit afterward.
    – Leads me to think about databases though. Databases are large boxes with sections filled in. When a certain number of sections are filled in, the others become predictable. Educational systems are like that–they assume because there is communication between the educational system and the workplaces that the boxes being filled in (the types of courses for instance, the types of books being read) are the right boxes, and the system forgets its a system (almost Neitzhchian), and assumes it’s natural. But, big mistakes can happen. This is something that Pete England is exploring in his dissertation.
    – You’re on to something with stylistic relativism. Seems to me that you’re suggesting (a la allegory of the cave) that what we think is natural is really a shadow of naturalness, and that there are protrusions in the way that can impact “naturalness.”
    – Another area that might be interesting to bring in is language theory itself–how language dialects or people or movement of people change the nature of style. But, you’re getting pretty large in scope as it is.

    Dr. Rice

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