Composition and Instrumentalism (Rice)

Rice, Jenny Edbauer. “Rhetoric’s Mechanics: Retooling the Equipment of Writing Production.” College Composition and Communication 60.2 (2008) : 366-387. Print.

Rice’s light article provides both a brief assessment of “mechanics” as a trope in composition work and an example of how one group of students was engaged with the means of production and the process of inventing available rhetorical strategies through new media composition (“audio, visual, and multigenre writing”, 366). Briefly, her argument is that since in composition we are concerned with rhetorical production and practice, we need to comfortably attend to mechanics (“tools” and “equipment”) as all texts begin (or end) in mechanical concerns, despite our historic resistance to instrumentalized composition-rhetoric. She offers a vision of the rhetor that she calls the “logomechanic,” the tinkerer and creator “who can imagine, improvise, and enact the material deployments of meaning and its operation” (372). Part of her take-away is that composition pedagogy doesn’t know enough about technology, and to avoid this teachers should engage in “personal pedagogies” (i.e. they should try to learn by doing in new media projects that speak to their own interest, rather than feeling like they have to take on time- and resource-consuming training and tutorials and texts. (380). Embracing digital composition technology means embracing “tools for rhetorical production.” Though Rice doesn’t ever really seem to say “teach tools,” she does make a case for taking on more responsibility for understanding technology and technological systems. It’s not a post-essay pedagogy polemic, but makes the case that mechanics–stuff–are a worthy thing to attend to.

We should be tool people. But, then, I think all people should be tool people. Tinkerers, makers, bangers, and the like.

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