In this article, I reflect on four dimensions of assessing the significance of research in the computers and composition field: tradition, method, theory, and originality. Considering these four key concepts as topoi will help our community define, explain, and predict how future research will significantly contribute to teaching wisely and to writing well with technology.
In this article I use Albert Borgmann’s (1984) four-part theory of technology to analyze various contributions to Computers and Composition—initially enthusiastic, sometimes fearful, and later aware of the complexities of technology and the need for anchoring discussions of technology in theory and pedagogy. By applying Borgmann’s theory, I show how readers of Computers and Composition can follow the 20-year development of technological awareness in the journal, and I also show possibilities for future directions the journal can take.
The history of interface development has led us to focus in a very limited way on the surface of the computer screen and has asked us not to see how the design of what is on screen shapes the actions and thinking we can do while engaged with interfaces. In this article, we look back to arguments in Computers and Composition from the 1980s and early 1990s, arguments that tried to broaden our views so that we could see how interfaces are thoroughly rhetorical. We show how, then, these arguments appear, unfortunately, to have been forgotten: In handbooks and guides intended to help student in writing classes design and develop Web sites, students are asked to think of interfaces—and hence audiences—only in terms of technical function and ease of use. The interfaces developed from such help can only then see audiences reductively. We offer suggestions of strategies teachers can use to help students develop reflexive and more generous interfaces.
This reflective article chronicles the process of my development as a writer, a learner, a teacher, and a researcher who happens to engage the practices of writing, learning, teaching, and researching with emerging technologies. Using a colonial metaphor that captures my initial exposure to school-based literacies, I demonstrate how a colonial pattern permeates current dynamics of technology used both in and out of schools. I use this frame to raise issues and ask questions about teaching with technologies in socially just and responsible ways.
In this article, I argue that recent initiatives concerning the use of computer-mediated instruction (CMI) to improve writing skills in large lecture classes often work to undermine the professional status of composition teachers in North American universities. I trace the use of computer-assisted instruction, specifically distance-education initiatives. To further the cause of a just implementation of CAI, I discuss recent contractual language and explore the current practice of hiring computer and writing specialists into nontenurable staff positions. I posit that writing program administrators need to fight for stable, long-term positions for faculty who teach with computers and within computer-mediated spaces. I also argue that compositionists must seek to regulate and control the ownership of their intellectual property and course materials.
I argue that conversations about the pedagogical applications of web sites and HTML should be extended to include applications of these technologies on the programmatic level. I specifically examine the experience of the Rutgers Writing Program and the reconception of the Writing Program web site through a student-centered, content-driven, collaboratively constructed model in terms of Cynthia Selfe’s (1999) notion of critical technological literacy.
Assessing digital texts requires criteria and processes responsive to the texts as compositions. In this article, I note that current software already assesses digital texts and I suggest ways to become aware of and to use such assessments as sites of invention. In addition, for assessment I propose a four-part heuristic keyed to the multiple patterns that both composers and readers use to create coherence.
Although scholars from multiple fields, including rhetoric and composition, have studied and theorized how computer users can construct empowered subject positions with digital writing technologies, we have yet to articulate a rhetorical process for composing digital subjectivities. Past work has presented some unrealistic expectations related to digital empowerment and subjectivity. As compositionists and as digital rhetoricians, we need to develop and articulate rhetorical strategies that may lead to instructor empowerment. Here I examine rhetorical situations experienced by instructors, and I explore how they might use various writing technologies to rhetorically position themselves in the classroom. To not only successfully revise their subjectivity, but also to teach students how to compose digital subjectivities, instructors should consider the ideologies that define the rhetorical situation, their knowledge of the technologies, and the ideologies that the computer industries have written into the technology.
In this article, I examine to what extent Computers and Composition: An International Journal for Teachers of Writing is international. My analysis of several aspects of the journal indicates limited international scope. I also discuss two issues important when considering the potential international scope of computers and writing research and practices: the differing uses of computers for writing by different language users and the differing concepts of identity and self in different cultures in relation to writing. I conclude with concrete suggestions for broadening our perspectives on computers and writing and making this journal truly international.
As composition studies came to terms with technologized classrooms in the late 20th century, another field of science, biotechnology, also came into maturation. Here I address how biotechnology is poised to dramatically change our cultural landscape in the coming decades, fusing communication tools made possible through electronic technology with molecular-level knowledge of our genetic structure and our evolutionary past. Because biotechnological research is discovering the codes our bodies use to communicate and may eventually merge biological processes with information technology, it is important to interrogate how biotechnology will impact writing, teaching, technology, and even humanity. I analyze parallels in biotechnology as they have occurred in the past 20 years in tandem with special issues published in Computers and Composition to suggest past, current, and future connections between biotechnology and the work of computers and writing.
Setting: Camera cuts back and forth between close-ups of writing activity in what appears to be a classroom computer space. Shots (e.g., of hands typing, mousing; screens with text editors, email, web browsers open; groups viewing documents on an overhead screen, etc.) don’t allow us to see exactly where we are. From opening-sequence montage, fade to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, site of the 2001 Computers & Writing Conference; fade to Normal, Illinois, site of the 2002 Computers & Writing Conference; fade to West Lafayette, Indiana, site of the 2003 Computers & Writing Conference.
Keeping with the currency of the print-based journal, Print to Screen focuses on the themes found in the recent issues of Computers and Composition, and includes multimodal commentaries that explore and remediate relationships between print and screen.
Section Editor — Elizabeth Monske