Monday, January 28, 2008

Coming Together As Many

Aside from the occasional interesting historical fact (I had no idea that Thoreau's Walden escape was funded by his entrepreneurial pencil-making stint), Bacon's piece struggled to keep my attention/intrigue. From my perspective, he failed to add anything new to the conversation regarding new technologies in the classroom, and instead seemed to repeat what others have said plenty of times before; namely, that technologies become invisible and automatic, and we therefore have a choice to fight or adapt. I don't expect, nor do I usually want, concrete answers in a scholarly piece, but I do hope to be left with a question or two that I find engaging and that even re-appears long after the article finds its home back on my shelf. Instead, Bacon's historical anecdotes provided me with nothing more than mild entertainment and a few yawny-yawn-yawns.

Offering more relevant references to current debates in our field, Hesse caused my computer to hit sleep mode far less than Bacon did (as I took notes on it). Since I assign a mixed genre literacy narrative (like Faigley's microethnography) to my 101 students and see it as an enlightening way to get at the root of student anxiety around constructions of the self, I found Hesse's multiple definitions of "essayistic literacy" and his questioning of the genre's value to be helpful. At times, however, I was confused about exactly what point he was making or where he was headed (i.e. his consideration of whether a home page is an extended argument or only a channeling of info? Does it really matter?) He also seemed to cite other scholars more than relying on his own contributions. If nothing else, though, he increased my understanding of the pedagogies within a social constructionist framework (accommodationist and resistance) and set the stage for Wysocki's compelling piece.

I love when segues appear without trying...

In "Blinded by the Letter," Wysocki and Eilola have a heightened sense of energy and innovation, both in the questions they ask and the design/format they use. It's like they're practicing what they're preaching, in a sense... like they are "not just moving through information," but "moving through it and making and changing conscious constructions of it as [they] go” (366). To me, their approach is as close to "patch-writing," or "patch-composing," perhaps, as one can get. Quoting others in chunks, messing with design and font conventions, and creating somewhat of a jump-around content path, these two are displaying the complex and exciting relationship we can have with our new and ever-changing idea of techno literacy.

Visually speaking, they act on their notion that an articulation relationship operates under a "cloud of sometimes contradictory nexus points among different positions" (367), and further assert that "literacy can be seen as not a skill but a process of situating and resituating representations in social spaces" (367). I'm drawn to this idea because of its implications to rehash and revise the old, linguistically exclusive ways of viewing discourse, literacy, and learning as monolithic practices. I'm also caught in that place of being motivated by theory and confused by how to specifically act on it in my own pedagogy.

Their references to Stuart Hall also made me want to read more of his work, since I've only had minimal exposure to it. I'm particularly hopeful about his view of articulation theory as a way of forcing us to set aside the belief that a 'unity' exists within discourses--that instead a new way of viewing multiple literacies as multiple articulations can "enable[s] us to think how an ideology empowers people, enabling them to begin to make some sense or intelligibility of their historical situation, without reducing those forms of intelligibility to their socio-economic or class location or social position” (367). If possible, it seems that this approach could both validate individual student experiences with (and interpretations of) literacy and acknowledge social forces at play without forcing such acknowledgment upon them. In the end, I believe students deserve to arrive at those social connections/social locations on their own, and the complex dimension that computer technology adds to our relationships to literacy might allow that very thing to happen.

Lastly, I'll add this: Can Richard Miller ditch Rutgers and teach here? I want a "Center for New Humanities!"

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