What areas of computers and writing need to be 'rethought'? What methods should be imported from other genres?
That's a big question, and I don't have the answers handy. Despite my wandering off occasionally in bizarre and heretical directions, I'm not of the opinion that writing instruction is broken. But there are clearly some areas where writing pedagogy has failed to respond to shifts in cultures and communities. The whole role of chaos in writing, and the general tendency to see it as a necessary evil, could stand some examination. Most writers (and much writing instruction) still relies on a model of the reader as relatively passive receiver; in that articulation, writing is the process of constructing a magic bullet, so well-formed rhetorically that it does its work automatically in the act of reading. Furthermore, that idealized model is rarely tested in complex ways, especially ways that not only allow but encourage readers to make their own uses of texts. Usability theory (especially the more recent, less deterministic forms), contextual inquiry, and participatory design are all movements that are particularly helpful at understanding readers as users . We see some of that moving into composition over the last decade or two, imported by writing teachers who also have backgrounds in technical communication, but not so much in more traditional writing classes.
And there are obvious and crucial connections that need to be strengthened in areas like graphic design, interaction design, film theory, sound design, and other fields that are crucial to understanding more complex texts. For many of us, even those who venture into teaching multimedia texts, writing still functions as the foundation, to which other media and ways of working are added.
The production of text, then, is just one method for working, alongside video, audio, and all the rest (including the design of physical artifacts: watches, musical instruments, automobiles, whatever). When we articulate what we do as teaching Design, we'll open ourselves up to a much richer set of possibilities.
Can you tell me anything about your upcoming first-year textbook?
The textbook's still up on the air (although maybe I'll reach some agreement with the publisher in the near future). The idea is to take a lot of the ideas I've been covering here and framing them in a way that would work in a first-year composition class. A lot of my approach has been adapted from technical communication, cultural studies, usability, and other fields; those areas are becoming more important to composition as the field begins working with less 'traditional' texts (websites, wikis, weblogs, videogames, etc.).
Finally, do you have any 'publishing tips' for new graduates or the non-published?
Publishing tips? Publish early and publish often. A lot of grad students are intimidated by the idea of publishing something. Sometimes they're intimidated by putting their work out there alongside the work of people they've been reading in their classes. If this is the case, a good way to start out is by writing reviews: journals are always looking for people to write reviews. It's a relatively straightforward genre and a good way to move into publishing slowly. Another good method is to collaborate, either with other students or with a professor. This provides some relatively objective reassurance that what you're saying in an essay is valuable. (I should say that I don't consider myself a good collaborator: My methods for writing are so chaotic and idiosyncratic that I'm very hard to work with.) The handful of people I've collaborated with were already excellent collaborators—open to new ideas, able to adapt their writing processes on the fly, careful to rein me in when I was going off the rails but it's not a burden I'd place lightly on someone.