CIWIC & DMAC: An Ecology of Influence at Columbia College Chicago

Ryan Trauman and Ames Hawkins

Introduction

CIWIC and DMAC have a long, storied, and decorated history. The institute’s impact on the field of Computers and Writing is immeasurable. It has provided the spark for countless articles in Kairos and Computers and Writing, and it has been one of the major catalysts establishing relationships and and prompting collaborations between scholars from all over the country.

Six of us, each instructors here at Columbia College Chicago, sat down to discuss the impact that CIWIC/DMAC’s has had on each of us and on our institution.

Our generative idea for this project was that CIWIC/DMAC has influenced several of the instructors and professors teaching in this writing department. We wanted to explore and capture the impact that a multiplicity of CIWIC/DMAC alumni might have on their shared institution. As most alumni can attest, a single scholar attending CIWIC/DMAC and returning to her/his writing program with new ideas and stoked enthusiasm can make significant contributions to their home institution (on colleagues, students,  and their own scholarship), as well as the field in general. Having two former CIWIC/DMAC participants at the same site can have a multiplying, rather than additive effect as they can fuel each other’s common enthusiasm as well as compare shared experiences. Instead of a tourist returning with stories from a strange and powerful land, the second participant confirms the first and establishes the beginnings of a dialogue between experienced alumni. As Columbia College Chicago (our shared institution) is lucky enough to have five former CIWIC/DMAC attendees, the summer institute’s influence takes on a different character than what might be found at other institutions.

As a way of structuring our collaborative investigations, recollections, and insights, we chose to frame our text within the context of our discipline’s ongoing engagement with the concept of ecology. Our primary conceit was that while a single CIWIC/DMAC alumnus can certain influence a particular environment, a multiplicity of alumni could not only have a major impact on the direction of a writing program, but such a nexus of scholars, to some degree, might become more than the sum of its parts. In many ways they function as a micro-ecosystem affecting the multiple macro-ecosystems they inhabit.

In order to investigate, enact, and capture some semblance of this ecology of CIWIC/DMAC’s influence on our institution, the authors gathered around a dining room table and, at the prompting of our Writing Program Director (Pegeen Reichert-Powell), compared recollections, insights, and best practices we have adopted since each of us attended the institute. As Pegeen was the only one of the six of us to have not yet attended the institute, she would serve not only as the discussion’s moderator, but she would also contribute more of an “outsider’s” perspective as someone who hasn’t yet attended the institute. We recorded the conversation and made it available to group members for reference. Following this two-hour conversation, each of us was tasked with producing a text conveying our individual insights either from our first-hand experiences at CIWIC/DMAC or take-aways from our common conversation. The six individual reflections you find in this piece are bound together as interconnected nodes in a larger network of CIWIC/DMAC’s influence on our local institution as a rhetorical and material ecosystem

Reaction to Cognitive Process Models

For more than thirty years, scholars in computers and writing have been employing ecology-driven metaphors as ways to talk about the processes, products, influences affecting different sorts of writing.

In her foundational work, “The Ecology of Writing,” Marilyn Cooper writes that
“language and texts are not simply the means by which individuals discover and communicate information, but are essentially social activities, dependent on social structures and processes not only in their interpretive but also in their constructive phases” (366).
Cooper argues that the resources, processes, and products of textual production are embedded in an interdependent network of people, histories, and material resources.

Cooper’s model pushes back against the cognitive processes models dominating composition scholarship for decades prior to her article. Instead of constituting the author as an independent identity with intent to directly and consciously affect the world in particular ways, an ecological model of writing constitutes the author as working and negotiating within a complex network of competing contingencies.

Cooper’s groundbreaking article exploded the scope of influences acting on and within any given text or instance of writing activity. However, scholars such as Margaret Syverson have since pointed out that Cooper’s adoption of an ecological writing model has also at least destabilized, if not outright threatened, Composition’s long-held assumptions and reverence for individual agency and textual autonomy.

In light of the new scholarly opportunities afforded by Cooper’s article, especially in response to the relative simplicity and limitations of Cognitive Processes model, Syverson warns that the text, practices, sites, and tools constituting writing will continue to become
”far more diverse than we have been led to believe by the preponderance of studies in our field” (Syverson 1999, 187).

Recently, more than a two dozen years after Cooper’s article, Ridolfo, Sheridan, and Michel, along with dozens of scholars before them, continue to forward an ecological frame for writing studies. They manage to do so while simultaneously offering a detailed sampling of the increasing rhetorical complexity Syverson predicts. Given that authors enact most contemporary textual production and circulation through digital technologies, Ridolfo, Sheridan, and Michel argue that rhetoric now
“emerges from a larger ecology: linguistic, aural, and visual semiotic resources; multiple technologies; multiple humans; multiple compositions and recompositions; multiple channels of reproduction and distribution” (xxvii).

While our text sets out to explore precisely these disciplinary discussions of individual agency within an ecological analytical framework, our approach contributes to these ongoing discussions in three particular ways.

  • Scholar-Teachers instead of Students. First, rather than examining student texts and writing practices, we have instead chosen to focus on CIWIC-DMAC’s influence on our own scholarly production and teaching praxes, as well as how those influences have impacted our local institution.
  • A Multiplicity of Individual Perspectives. Second, the way we’ve designed our collaborative process foregrounds experience from the individual’s point of view. Rather than working together to forward a singular, cohesive argument, each of us first created a text commenting on our own personal experiences of CIWIC-DMAC and the institute’s subsequent influence on us as individuals.
  • CIWIC-DMAC as a Specific Actor at a Specific Site. Finally, our text offers a relatively bounded landscape within which we employ the ecology metaphor as an analytical lens. While any ecological analysis requires that a scope and context be defined, most of the scholarship addressing this method remains relative abstract in terms of what constitutes a particular or common set of influences forming a writing ecology. Our local institution, given the rare circumstance of five CIWIC-DMAC alumni as faculty, functions as a relatively concrete and bounded particular environment.

Table of Contents

To build this site, Suzanne Blum Malley forked Jentery Sayers' GitHub repository for the wonderful HTML5 site he created for "Hacking the Classroom: Eight Perspectives" in Computers and Composition Online, Spring 2014 . The source files for this page are available at GitHub. Both sites build from the Boostrap CSS and Treble Theme.


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Ames Hawkins

Open

This video essay presents Ames Hawkins’ scholarly-creative interpretation of open/openness, an oft-repeated term during the six-person conversation this past Spring. Because of the multi modal experimentation included here, in the same way a reader might need to slow down, and reread sentences or paragraphs in order to fully understand a complicated idea in an alphabetic text, hitting pause and rewinding the piece, in order to fully read quotations, or perhaps reconsider the different layers of text, sound and image, is encouraged. Imagined, conceived, and written by Ames Hawkins, the piece was edited by her sixteen year old son, Charles Hawkins, opening here also, a space for the practice and possibility of collaboration.

< figcaption>Video Essay by Ames Hawkins, edited by Charles Hawkins


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Suzanne Blum Malley

Doing the Work of CIWIC-DMAC

This video/text essay presents Suzanne Blum Malley’s reflection on the the value of the hands-on work of the CIWIC and DMAC institutes as models of particularly effective forms of attention to our affective rhetorical ecologies through “thinking/doing” (Edbauer “Reframing” 23). Using a frequency analysis of of keywords from the Columbia College CIWIC/DMAC alumni recorded conversation and video footage produced as part of the "finger-exercises" of DMAC 2009 as the foundation of this piece, Blum Malley explores the discomfort and resistance that form a natural part of decision-making associated with risk and the ways in which CIWIC/DMAC productively ameliorates those responses.

Video by Suzanne Blum Malley


Transcript for the Video


Click here for PDF of Suzanne's longer, alphabetic text essay


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Corrine Calice

CIWIC 2000:Reflections on Being an Early Adopter

This short whiteboard animation reflects on the experience of being an early adopter of computer-infused pedagogies who has played the role of an invasive species, spurring the slow evolution and diversification of an institutional ecology after attending CIWIC in 2000. Using the concept of micro-aggression, a term typically reserved to explain small, interpersonal gestures of rejection, the author explores complex power dynamics in simple, easy to visualize examples of institutional anxiety such as obstructionism and benign neglect that eventually grow toward faculty empowerment and collaboration across the institution. The presentation suggests that persistent individual faculty innovation has the capacity to contribute to institutional culture change over time. As a part-time faculty member who crossed the water from academia into the corporate training sector just after starting to teach at Columbia College Chicago in 2004, Corrine chose to compose her presentation as a white board animation to help illustrate the range of professional and pedagogical practices among the CCC faculty. Simply hit play to view.

Video by Corrine Calice


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Jonn Salovaara

Cracks in the Alphabetic Pavement: Resistance and My Own Path Toward Digital Composing

Jonn Salovaara’s hypothesis is that, for multi-modal teaching to flourish, writing programs need to promote multi-modal publishing possibilities, both intramural and extramural, for all levels of faculty. His personal narrative of resistance and DMAC flows in and out of pure text slides and image/text slides. On the latter, readers are invited to spend more time than it takes to read the brief texts, considering the relationship between the text and the image. Inspired by an assignment he gives his students, Salovaara began thinking of these particular photos of sidewalk cracks in terms of “What might grow, given a little space?” This was really a variant of Cindy Selfe’s question about why not widen the bandwidth for composition. But his piece turned into an exploration of words suggested by the images and a display of printed text up against a slightly more multi-modal format, all within one piece.

Slideshow by Jonn Salovaara


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Ryan Trauman

A Mess of Influences

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Audio Remix by Ryan Trauman

Pegeen Reichert Powell

Welcome to my Home/Page: Radical Hospitality in Program Administration and Course Design

In Fall 2005, the Writing in Digital Environments (or WIDE) Research Center Collective published an article in Kairos titled “Why teach digital writing?” Just by their participation in CIWIC or DMAC, my colleagues (and co-authors here) have already responded to this question with conviction, and what’s more, have gone on to answer “How do we teach digital writing?” and even “What is digital writing?” As the only contributor to this piece not to have participated in CIWIC or DMAC, at times I envy their conviction, not to mention, their exciting, thoughtful, substantial responses to the questions. On the other hand, it may be useful in my role as the Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric where we all teach that I am still asking the questions. In fact, I like that WIDE titled their article as an interrogative. It’s tempting to think that almost a decade later, our field has answered the question, and I suppose that the WIDE collective offered the article itself as a kind of answer, but the title—in bibliographies and indexes—will forever remain a question, and I argue that’s as it should be.

As a program, the questions we ask, the questions themselves—not just why teach digital writing, but also how, and even more fundamentally, what is digital writing—should remain at the center of our work. And I suggest that we might use the metaphor of hospitality as a guide for our work in this era of questions.

KEEPING QUESTIONS AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORK

First, though, why would we want to keep questions at the center of our curriculum, pedagogy, and WPA work? An easy point—probably too easy—is that it may be simply hubris to believe that we will soon find durable answers to the questions about the nature of writing in the 21st century. The pace of change is enough to quell our optimism that we could define, even temporarily, what digital writing is and how we should teach it.

But it’s more than just the pace of change that should give us pause, that should make us wonder if we will ever know what we’re doing again, but also the scope of the change. Everything about the very nature of writing is up in the air: genre conventions, the relationship between authors and readers, the role and look of alphabetic text, how writing is circulated, the technologies and platforms used to produce and consume writing, even the social purposes to which we put writing. It is hubris to believe that we can say to our various constituents (students, parents, colleagues, the public) that we have the answers to the questions of why and how, when the what of digital writing remains in constant flux.

Another reason our particular program needs to take these questions seriously, even when individual colleagues have answered them brilliantly already, is because many of our instructors—our most experienced and some of our best—have barely even begun to raise these issues in their teaching. As our program moves toward a curriculum that embraces the challenge and potential of teaching digital, multimodal composition, a process we are just beginning, we must treat these questions with the respect they are due as part of the pedagogical process of introducing the new curriculum to our instructors.  Asking these questions sincerely with our instructors, as opposed to providing them answers, invites them to participate in the process of making this important shift in our learning outcomes and curriculum.

So we should keep the questions at the center of our work because it’s hubris not to and because they play an important part in the curriculum revision process. However, reminding ourselves of what we don’t know and what we can’t control also, paradoxically perhaps, reflects some of the best current thinking about digital rhetorics.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE CONTINGENCIES OF DIGITAL RHETORIC

David Sheridan, Jim Ridolfo, and Anthony J. Michel, in their very useful book, The Available Means of Persuasion: Mapping a Theory and Pedagogy of Multimodal Public Rhetoric, argue that rhetorical success “is contingent upon networks of human and nonhuman actors, including multiple semiotic modes and multiple media of production, reproduction, and distribution. These networks can be complex, unpredictable, and chaotic” (PAGE #). They argue what we know intuitively looking at their 36 simultaneous ratios, that we have very little control over our rhetorical success. Part of their project in this book is to trouble the notion of agency: “all rhetorical action is contingent on many factors beyond the control of the various human actors involved” (107). They don’t dismiss the concept of agency altogether, but we are far beyond a time when we could teach students to analyze their intended audience and simply employ the appeals that will be most persuasive for that audience. “One thing is certain,” Sheridan, Ridolfo, and Michel argue, and that is that “agency is not increased by pretending that rhetorical action transcends contingency” (72).

Henry Jenkins and his coauthors in Spreadable Media are also concerned about the concept of agency, but they complicate our work as writing instructors in a different way, by highlighting the agency of audiences to share and repurpose the work of online compositions. They contrast their metaphor of “spreadability” to a stickiness model of media production and distribution. A stickiness model, they explain, “refers to the need to create content that attracts audience attention and engagement,” not unlike our old “analyze your intended audience and write to them” assignments (4). In a stickiness model, it is clear who the producer and the audience is; “each performs a separate and distinct purpose” (7). However, “In a spreadable model, there is not only an increased collaboration across these roles but, in some cases, a blurring of the distinctions between these roles” (7). Audience becomes author, but not in ways that the original producer of the content has any real control over.

RESISTING ANSWERS

I think it’s clear, though we may often forget, that none of this is really new: the inherent contingencies in the rhetorical situation, the blurring of the roles of author and audience, these were always there. Our pedagogical models up to this point simply obscured these facts, stabilizing the rhetorical situation long enough to assign a grade: we were the audience of one for our students’ writing, the circulation method was no more complicated than making sure the printer had paper and you showed up to class in time to hand it in. And we can still teach that way.

However, when we acknowledge not just how fast and how drastically the nature of writing is changing outside of our classroom, but also how little agency any of us have as writers over our compositions, then we are left with those questions at the center of our work: what is it that we’re trying to teach, when it appears that we have very little agency over our rhetorical success anyway? And how does one teach a lack of agency? And the why tends to emerge as why teach this—when it seems almost impossible to do so—when we could just keep asking students to write essays, print them on paper, and hand them in?

I’m not suggesting that we leave these dilemmas in the form of questions—I’m suggesting that we resist the attempt to pin down the answers. That we keep asking the questions over and over, and wonder at the different answers we might hear from ourselves and our colleagues and our students.

HOSPITALITY IN COMPOSITION STUDIES

I argue that the concept of hospitality, and specifically Derrida’s concept of absolute or unconditional hospitality, can function as a metaphor for our work that enables us to imagine a response to the unknowns and the things we can’t control in our work these days. Hospitality emerged as an important theme in the conversation among my colleagues who attended CIWIC and DMAC. They spoke of Cindy Selfe’s hospitality, of the hospitable spaces in which they worked, and of the hospitality of the community of scholars that has grown from these shared experiences. What would it mean to recreate that kind of hospitality in a program? And should that even be our goal?

I think we’ve always imagined composition studies to be a hospitable discipline, or at least much of what we’ve done has attempted to generate hospitality. Janis Haswell, Richard Haswell, and Glenn Blalock, however, appear to have written the only scholarship in our field that addresses the idea of hospitality. In “Hospitality in College Composition Courses,” they offer a compelling argument for taking seriously the “pragmatic and ethical implications of [hospitality]” in the writing classroom, if not the theoretical underpinnings of the concept (709).  Hospitality assumes borders—of homes, of countries. Likewise, writing classrooms have always been understood as liminal spaces, because of the literal and metaphorical borders we cross—the doorway of the classroom; the relationship among disciplines; the borders among home, work, and school. Hospitality as a metaphor captures those border-crossings and compels us to think about how we respond to those people and ideas that enter our institutions and classrooms.

DERRIDA AND THE PARADOX OF HOSPITALITY

However, Derrida challenges our understanding of hospitality. He identifies a paradox implicit in the traditional understanding of hospitality: the generosity we associate with hospitality in fact entails sovereignty over one's home and the exertion of power by the host to choose who enters. He argues that there is a kind of violence associated with hospitality as the other enters the host’s territory on the terms established by the host. And relevant to our own work, Derrida explains this violence as a violence embedded in language:

The foreigner is first of all foreign to the legal language in which the duty of hospitality is formulated. . . .He has to ask for hospitality in a language which by definition is not his own, the one imposed on him by the master of the house, the host, the king, the lord, the authorities, the nation, the State, the father, etc. [We can hear in this list the idea that the language is imposed on him by the teacher, too.] This personage imposes on him translation into their own language, and that’s the first act of violence. . . If he was already speaking our language, with all that that implies, if we already shared everything that is shared with a language, would the foreigner still be a foreigner and could we speak of asylum or hospitality in regard to him? (15-17)

And that is the paradox of hospitality, that we must exert violence in order to generously extend hospitality.

So Derrida elaborates an absolute or unconditional hospitality. He argues that
Absolute hospitality requires that I open up my home and that I give not only to the foreigner. . .but to the absolute, unknown, anonymous other, and that I give place to them, that I let them come, that I let them arrive, and take place in the place I offer them, without asking of them either reciprocity (entering into a pact) or even their names. (25)

Unconditional hospitality radically decenters the host, and hospitality is no longer about the social conventions of welcoming, but about new arrivals confronting the host with otherness. It is hospitality on the terms established by the guest. Borders are crossed with impunity.

HOSPITALITY AND DIGITAL COMPOSITION

Hospitality, and especially Derrida’s radical hospitality, is a particularly apt metaphor as we move toward digital composition. First, digital, multimodal texts have borders that readers cross with impunity. The ubiquitous “welcome to my homepage” message may in fact be a message of absolute hospitality, because the writer/host of networked, digital texts no longer controls who enters, how long they stay, what rooms they go in, even what they do when they get there. We must appreciate that guests to our online texts may borrow our stuff, and even change it drastically in the borrowing.

Moreover, the Internet has no boundaries. Derrida meditates on the implications for this and state surveillance, which is also relevant to our concerns, but for now I’m just going to limit it to his observation that our “at home” is threatened  (51). Traditional hospitality is very clear about the boundaries of home, of country. But the boundaries of the classroom become blurred, or erased altogether, anytime a student enters the classroom with a phone connected to the outside (which is to say, every time a student enters our classroom). Derrick Mueller’s concept of digital underlife is relevant here. He argues that “we have observed an unprecedented unraveling of presumably once-ordered domains of the classroom and conference hall” (240). But rather than lock the doors to reestablish a sense of order, he suggests that
When weighing decisions about what to do about digital underlife, we must take on a more receptive [more hospitable?] attitude to the plausibility of its productive dimensions. That is, rather than reducing digital underlife into the dyad of contained and disruptive, we might add productive as a positive third term—particularly where we understand such underlife to enable meaningful discursive practices beyond the schoolroom.
In other words, the very nature of the writing and reading that our students are already doing, in our classroom if not always of our classroom, demands an absolute hospitality on our part.

THE CHALLENGE OF HOSPITALITY

But I’m not sure yet that we have embraced the new role of host that this implies. Claudia W. Ruitenberg, who applies Derrida’s ethic of absolute hospitality to education, argues that a hospitable curriculum “asks how it can give place to, or would be undone by, the arrival of new ideas—for new ideas do not necessarily sit comfortably in the existing home of the curriculum” (34).

Which brings me back to the questions at the center of digital writing: why teach it, how do we teach it, what is it? Keeping these questions as questions, without forcing answers, encourages us to assume the role of the host of a radical, absolute hospitality. When we sincerely ask these questions, we are compelled to be open to new ideas, new approaches, new languages. It means seeing whatever answers we arrive at as provisional. And it means listening to the answers provided by students, colleagues in other disciplines, and faculty in our program who we may not typically turn to for answers, including those who are at first resistant to the shift toward digital composition. In fact, intentionally building the questions into our curriculum provides a model for this openness to the unknown, which can be productive as we introduce these new ideas to resistant instructors.

A DIGRESSION: HOSPITALITY AND RETENTION

I want to point out that this idea of absolute hospitality is also a useful metaphorical challenge for a WPA and other college administrators to think about international students and world Englishes, most obviously, but also students who are unprepared for college, veterans, students with disabilities, and all sorts of populations that colleges and universities have typically admitted without considerations for how these populations must necessarily change our institution. Rather, when we have been open to these demographics, we have also exerted the sovereignty over our home: we have insisted that they speak our language, that they observe the house rules, and that they follow our strict schedule. Then when they leave before graduation, like a guest leaving before dinner is served, we consider it rude.

In response to concerns over retention at bricks and mortar institutions, I’ve wondered about the possibility of imagining an institution that enacted absolute hospitality: what if our doors were open at all times, and guests could come and go as they please, and it wasn’t viewed as a failure of either host or guest if dinner was served at 11:00 p.m., as long as it’s hot and nourishing? Ruitenberg distinguishes this ethic of absolute hospitality from our typical sense of “inclusion,” which “presupposes a whole into which something (or someone) can be incorporated” (Graham and Slee, qtd in Ruitenberg); an ethic of hospitality, on the other hand, appreciates how “the arrival of the guest may change the space into which he or she is received” (32). It’s tough to imagine—just the logistics alone are overwhelming, I know—but my argument about retention is that unless we enact an absolute hospitality, an openness to whomever shows up, whenever they show up, there will always be guests who leave.

THE LIMITS OF THE METAPHOR OF RADICAL HOSPITALITY

As useful as this metaphor may be, however, how do we tell our students—not to mention their parents, our colleagues, the public—that we don’t know what writing is? People think they know what writing is, and in some cases, they might actually be correct. When we start arguing for new curricula, or more technology, as I’m doing at my institution, the people we communicate with generally aren’t persuaded by questions. Moreover, as a metaphor, traditional hospitality is so good, so knowable, so persuasive. In fact I came to this project with memories of my own mother’s hospitality, all the strange people (they weren’t strangers necessarily, but they were very weird) at our Christmas breakfast, the kids and adults who lived with us at various times. Hospitality in this sense is a real virtue and powerfully persuasive. Hospitality in the way I’m talking about it is not, because the radical host is no longer in a position to offer a welcome on his or her own terms—this is hospitality on the terms of the guest. It might not be a strong metaphor when the traditional view of hospitality holds such persuasive appeal. Moreover, do the questions really help us talk about what it is that we do know? And we do know a lot—we have a vocabulary, a methodology, habits of mind—that enable us, as scholars in our fields, to study and teach writing. More than anything, right now, I see the metaphor of radical hospitality as a challenge to us to articulate what it is we do know, and what it is we don’t yet know.

AN HOSPITABLE CURRICULUM: WHAT IS WRITING IN THE 21st CENTURY?

Our program is currently piloting a course deliberately titled with a question, “What is Writing in the 21st Century?” This course, the first in a sequence of two first-year courses, moves the program from a typical curriculum that taught primarily print-based academic genres to a curriculum structured around ten key rhetorical concepts rearticulated in light of digital, multimodal composition. Not to be confused with “threshold concepts” (see Baillie, Bowden, and Meyer), instead these terms might be better understood as strategies for navigating the world of multimodal communication as readers and writers: affordances, alphabetic text, arrangement, circulation, ethos, field, genre, image, kairos, and remix. Maintaining a focus on new iterations of traditional rhetorical concepts codifies disciplinary knowledge and values—acknowledging what it is we do know—and at the same time, enables us to explore what we don’t know.

For example, one of the key concepts is ethos, not a new concept in writing courses. Nevertheless, in the context of digital, networked writing, we must address how ethos is constructed not just in words, but in all decisions that go into composing. The images (another key concept in the course), music, audio, fonts, colors, video, and the arrangement (yet another key concept) of these various pieces, all contribute to one’s ethos, as do the platforms and media one uses to circulate such compositions. If students are to practice constructing a positive ethos in this environment, then they must have the opportunity to create a multimodal text and experiment with various social media and platforms. What the course offers, then, is a relatively durable body of knowledge, captured in our key concepts, that enables us to practice with, theorize, and question the rapidly shifting, almost ephemeral communicative resources and technologies, circulation methods, and social purposes that characterize our communication landscape now. (Put simply, we’re teaching ethos instead of Facebook, circulation instead of Twitter, arrangement instead of YouTube.)

We are asking our students and each other “What is writing in the 21st century?” and using our key concepts as a way to frame partial, necessarily provisional answers.Arguably, writing scholars have always been investigating the nature of writing, but we are in an historical moment when the urgency of this question is felt keenly by scholars in our field, and by other academics and the general public. We are unsure of the responses we’ll get, in the form of students’ projects or our instructors’ course designs, and we anticipate that the responses may evolve over several semesters, which may in turn shape future iterations of the course. If, as Ruitenberg says, an ethic of hospitality entails that “the arrival of the guest may change the space into which he or she is received” (32), then in the spirit of such hospitality, those of us who have designed the course—including past participants in CIWIC and DMAC—are opening ourselves up to ideas and approaches that will likely change the course, and possibly even our understanding of our discipline, in ways we couldn’t imagine now.

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