Mobile Composition, Mobile Agency (Johnson-Eilola & Selber, Turnley)

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan, and Stuart A. Selber. “The Changing Shapes of Writing: Rhetoric, New Media, and Composition.” Going Wireless: A Critical Exploration of Wireless and Mobile Technologies for Composition Teachers and Researchers. Ed. Amy C. K. Hea. Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press, 2009. 15-33. Print.

For good or ill, texting counts.

Johnson-Eiloloa and Selbers’ chapter (the first in Hea’s anthology), “The Changing Shapes of Writing,” is not only an argument for post-essay, post-correctness pedagogy, it also functions as one for getting past literacy crisis discourse in our hypermediated age:

“New forms [of writing] are here and are increasingly popular” (16)

“Questions about whether or not new forms such as IM and Short Message Service (SMS) hurt writing are beside the point: They’re already here–and our students are using them on a daily basis.” (16)

The authors look past particular media to communication and technology more broadly, providing a “C3T” heuristic for analysis, conversation, and invention. The C3T heuristic (Context, Change, Content, Tools) seems to be a useful device for situating communication practices; as the authors describe, it provides a way to discuss conventions rhetorically in many different kinds of communication as well as validating (a word I’m still a little quirky about) student knowledge of their own communication, all without “automatically demot[ing] other communication practices” (18).. J-E and S look beyond “New Media” and to new media more broadly.

Basically, this article is a lesson for composition about communication design–love it or hate it (i’m down with it)–from TC: “As practicing technical communicators have amply demonstrated, complex, real-world solutions frequently require innovative thinking about media.” (22).

Turnley, Melinda. “Reterritorialized Flows: Critically Considering Student Agency in Wireless Pedagogies.” Going Wireless: A Critical Exploration of Wireless and Mobile Technologies for Composition Teachers and Researchers. Ed. Amy C. K. Hea. Hampton Press, 2009. 87-105. Print.

Turnley argues that particular technologies do not “automatically enhance” learning or “equalize all environments and student positions” (88). Technologies have affordances, but these are not transparent, and educators should be aware of the ways a technology might exclude students. “Utopic framings” of learning in wireless-capable network is a problematic assumption, in that it mistakenly asserts that “technology determines space.” As Turnley notes, “Removing wires from our machines, however, does not erase their ties to institutional and political concerns. […] Deterministic frameworks present wireless networks as neutral spaces that automatically equalize all environments and student positions.” (88). Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of reterritorialization (oversimiplified: that new frameworks, if not deterritorialized or deheirarchized, just reassert the old agencies and divisions of old frameworks) figure heavily in this article; pedagogy “should frame student agency as intersubjective” (89) rather than relying on “narratives of automatic efficiency and autonomy” (89). Teachers need to attend to wireless networks’ imbrication with cultural networks; computer-mediated changes in pedagogical time and space have the capacity to further exclude already-marginalized student populations.


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