While any ecological analysis requires that a scope and context be defined, most of the scholarship addressing this method remains relatively abstract in terms of what constitutes a particular or common set of influences forming a writing ecology. This collaboratively written multi-modal compositon offers a relatively bounded landscape for which we employ the ecology metaphor as an analytical lens.
In order to investigate, enact, and capture some semblance of this ecology of CIWIC/DMAC’s influence on our institution, the authors of this piece 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. Following a recording of 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. As Pegeen was the only one of the six of us to have not yet attended the institute, she served not only as the discussion’s moderator, but contributes here with an “outsider’s” perspective.
Anyone who has been to CIWIC/DMAC knows that much of the conversation considers the student as focus for the implementation of technopedagogies in the classroom. Examining student texts and writing, then, would be a valid way of considering the impact of CIWIC/DMAC beyond the summer institute. We have, however, 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, as a way to feature/foreground our relationship to our experience at CIWIC/DMAC and, by extension, the relationships between and among each other via our longitudinal connection with the summer institute.
Given the rare circumstance of five CIWIC/DMAC alumni as faculty, our local institution functions as a relatively concrete, particular, and bounded environment, enabling us to comprehend not only the relevance and impact of CIWIC/DMAC on a program or school, but to also begin to consider how it is we might map, track, and understand what we might identify as rheto-technodiversity.
Our collaborative process for this piece foregrounds experience from the individual’s point of view. As a result, rather than working together to forward a singular, cohesive argument, we argue that our texts collectively evidence rheto-technodiversity, a term we use to signify the idea of ecological interplay between and among different forms (multi-modal compositional species, if you will) and perspectives represented via the six pieces presented here. We also want to point out that this rheto-diversity--the notion that different individuals will take up the ideas presented at CIWIC/DMAC and evidence them in different, yet connected ways--illustrates a kind of ecological balance between two perspectives that that might better be understood as micro and macro ecological concerns.
In his piece “Digital Ecologies,” Sean Morey (2012) provides a starting point for considering the parameters of micro ecological concerns via his notion of de-ecologizing. Morey, forwarding Deleuze and Guattari’s “Three Ecologies,” argues for a “schizoanalysis of ecology, taking the parts to form new wholes […] The schizo, as a coder, is a writer, a rewriter, and she rewrites using the method of cut-and-paste, taking parts of would-be analog productions and creating a digital collage” (p. 117). In the pieces presented here, we see each of our authors as performing something akin to this schizoanalysis, reflecting on her/his unique set of lessons, skills, experiments, best practices, and stories as a rewritten collage of CIWIC/DMAC’s legacy. Morey refers to these DIY collage perspectives as “mecologies,” which we construct as “our own collection of totemic allegiances through which we are affected” (p. 119). Considered individually, then, each text, as a smaller component of the larger text, reflects a particular “mecology” that may be insularly examined in order to determine impact of CIWIC/DMAC on pedagogical, professional and personal development.
Yet, we also want to make clear that in addition to this focus on multiple, single-point perspectives, our pieces evidence Fleckenstein’s notion of “somatic mind,” and capture a sense of CIWIC/DMAC’s influence on our larger institution as a dynamic, responsive, and complex system. Fleckenstein (1999) stresses the importance of grounding scholarly observation in individual experience, or “‘being-in-a-material-place,’ whose fluid and permeable boundaries are (re)constituted through the mutual play of discursive and corporeal coding” (p. 282). In other words, whereas Morey (2012) describes how any single actor in a larger ecology must “de/re/code” her/his own particular understanding of how the system functions (p.117), so we argue for a similar process from the perspective not of a single actor, nor a perception of the system as a whole, but somewhere in between. We are working towards a collective understanding of a relatively particular catalyst (CIWIC/DMAC) on our local institutional culture. Instead of Fleckestein’s “view from somewhere” resulting in something akin to Morey’s mecologies,” we have constructed our own text in pursuit of a constellation of perspectives—a view from here, there, now, then—in order to form what we playfully refer to as a “wecology.”
Therefore, in reviewing our mecologies, we have noted that our individual pieces share three interdependent themes that reflect how each of our experiences live within our institutional context or environment and might be considered a wecology as a collective text. The three themes that make up or describe the wecology in this piece are key concepts that recurred, overlapped, and sometimes competed within our narratives. Those themes are openness, messiness, and hospitality.
Openness and an insider-outsider dynamic are notions that each of our texts address in some way. Most notably, Ames sets the stage and opens the conversation, if you will, with her video composition which contemplates the discourse and politics of openness in education, democracy, text production, and relationships. The piece at once celebrates and questions the cracks, holes, apertures and movement that must be present in order to not be closed, fixed, solid, stable. John’s and Corrine’s pieces step knowingly into that gap, contemplating the personal and institutional anxiety over destabilization and the resistance or aggression one might experience facing a potentially disruptive composing practice.
Trauman’s audio remix acknowledges but recuperates the anxiety of destabilization through an exploration of messiness as fecundity or a fertile soil in which experimentation and divergence can lead to growth via the happy accidents that bring environmental pressure and cross-pollination together to drive evolution.
Of course, one’s teaching or composing practices do not exist in a bell jar and we all recognize that it is the environment, the context that impacts the growth potential of any ecology. As such, a third component of our wecology considers the role that hospitality plays in negotiating the stress that is required for creation. In her concluding essay Pegeen argues for a “radical hospitality” as a way of “upending traditional top-down” relationships between students, teachers, colleagues, the initiated and un-initiated. Suzanne calls for more “generous, hospitable environment[s]” as a way for each of us to serve as what Corrine describes as “a gateway rather than a gate keeper.” Cautiously, Pegeen points out through Derrida that hospitality brings us right back to insider/outsider politics and the messiness that is inherent in hospitable spaces.
It is because of the interrelated, intertwined nature of these themes and the fact they emerge in varying degrees in all of the pieces presented here that we think these are the drivers, the key factors through which CIWIC and DMAC have influenced the re-, me- we, and e-cologies of Columbia College Chicago.
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
for this web text are
available at GitHub
. Both sites build from the
Image below by Ames Hawkins.
This video essay, in four parts, 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.
Hawkins also includes a letter to the viewer/reader, one intended to be [clicked] opened following the reading/viewing of this video essay.
Image below by Suzanne Blum Malley
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, 2005 p. 23). Using a frequency analysis of of keywords from the Columbia College CIWIC/DMAC alumni recorded conversation and video footage produced as part of her "finger-exercises" created during 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.
Image below by Corrine Calice
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.
Image below by Jonn Salovaara
In planning a project to explore and honor DMAC, Jonn Salovaara started with a series of photos and by thinking of their sidewalk cracks in terms of “What might grow, given a little space?” This question derived from Cindy Selfe’s warning about the restriction of our effectiveness as teachers if we “limit the bandwidth of composing modalities in our classrooms and assignments” (“The Breath of Air” p. 618). Salovaara wanted to focus on the effectiveness that actually does develop when we attempt to widen that bandwidth, even a little bit.
After the discussion with CWIC-DMAC colleagues, and in interacting with words suggested by the images, this all switched. His work became a more introspective re-discovery of what had actually occurred for his own multi-modal composing and teaching since DMAC.
The resulting personal narrative of attempts and setbacks intentionally 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.
Ultimately, Salovaara reached a hypothesis that, to be effective, instructors themselves need to keep composing multi-modally, and that writing programs might take some steps to encourage them in this.
Gail Hawisher and Cindy Selfe (2014) provide a developed perspective on the growing possibilities for digital multi-modal publishing, reviewing the history of scholarly digital publishing and arguing for the likelihood of its increasing role in the future. They also point out that, “With the changing set of challenges that face digital publishing, educating composition scholars to compose only alphabetic texts (or to analyze them, assess them, or circulate them) is a disservice. We will all need to read and compose and exchange new kinds of texts, and our changing scholarship will demand new mediated genres” (p. 111).
Douglas Eyman and Cheryl Ball (2014) point out the benefits to the composer of publishing digital work. They focus on the deeper sense of design and rhetoric that develop as a result of such publishing. “For born-digital webtexts that engage multiple modes and media as a function of their genre, additional rhetorical concerns arise with regard to decisions about delivery, access(ability), and sustainability” (p. 114).
WPAs intent on multi-modal instruction might do well to highlight these scholarly publishing trends and benefits to all of their instructors. I think they might also consider the more expressive, less academic multi-modal work that some instructors engage in. They might promote this kind of work, by suggesting venues for non-academic publishing that as closely as possible approximate the conditions that Eyman and Ball describe for the academic. These include “(pedagogically informed) mentorship of authors in pre-submission collaborations and [a] collaborative peer review process”(p. 115). Again, WPAs might also create in-house sites for publishing and sharing multi-modal digital work, that also approximate these conditions.
In some of the discussion related to this issue in computers and writing, for instance in an article like “Teaching Digital Rhetoric,” there has been the unspoken assumption that instructors are already engaged, at the very least, in encountering new interfaces or media. This may be a fair assumption if the course is called Digital Rhetoric, but it may be a bit hasty if the program is a more general writing and rhetoric course.
As we began to consider toward the end of our CWIC/DMAC discussion, in the case of a more general course, current instructors may range from the digitally adept, to the would-be Luddite and everything in between. And, even with the digitally more adept, there is presumably a range of truly multi-modal experience, since some digital work may be almost exclusively text while other digital work may be in non-text modes, but one at a time, rather than in combination.
This wide spectrum of familiarity with the multi-modal is suggested in the section on Faculty Development in the webtext by Sherry Rankins-Robertson, et al. “Several of the teachers brought into the course were new to multimodal composing and had not previously assessed multimodal assignments. Additionally, several of the teachers were limited in their abilities to develop instructional texts outside of print-based documents.” Their solution in helping faculty was one-on-one sessions in teaching faculty to use unfamiliar modes and the course technology. The other strategy that I propose, of helping faculty to ongoing publication of their own multi-modal work, though, is not mentioned here as another ingredient in this faculty development.
It may be that in addition to helping faculty cope with the immediate demands of a multi-modal curriculum, in the long run, programs needs to consider this other ingredient. Rather than guessing the multi-modal experience of faculty, and developing help based on those guesses, the promotion of their work in digital multi-modal composition and publishing may require one-on-one consultation and a battery of publishing possibilities to meet the instructors where they are and help them forward with their own multi-modal composing and publishing, and, thereby, their teaching.
Image below by Ryan Trauman
In conceiving of this individual piece of our larger overall text, I knew that I wanted to focus on the messiness, the confusion, the trepidation, and the chaos that were all, at various times, present over the course of each of the DMAC institutes in which I taught or facilitated. For six consecutive summers I had the privilege of encountering a new cohort of scholars and graduate students. That repetition rendered several insights about the sorts of environments and attitudes that foster skilled praxis with digital writing tools. Of course, repeated practice, rhetorical awareness, and patience are what most people learn as the fundamentals of working within a learning environment like CIWIC/DMAC. However, a more subtle, but no less central or necessary element is the messiness holding the chaos together.
Like the other individual pieces of our text, this audio text focuses on themes of openness, messiness, and hospitality. Not only does the text examine these themes as organizing content, but it also directly enacts them as well. As contradictory as it might seem, there is a strong correlation between openness and intimacy. While it is possible that our published text might find a receptive public audience amongst computers and writing scholars, the opening conversation took place in a much more intimate environment. The heavy wood dining room table we gathered around fostered a sense of intimacy and openness about our teaching and writing practices. There was an overt sense of hospitality as we gathered in our colleagues' home, but there were also two other types of hospitality at work. One is the sort of hospitality present for any conversation to work, especially as that conversation gathers more people. To be one conversant among six takes respect and patience, an openness to others' ideas and the hospitality to make room for them, to listen to them, and to respond. But there was another hospitality present, too. Not only was the conversation lively and rich, but each of us knew that we were contributing our voices to an audio recording of the evening. We all agreed that each of us was free to use that recording as source material for our individual texts. The more I reflect on that, the more I've come to realize just how much trust and hospitality that required from each of us.
Image below by Ryan Trauman
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, 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.
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? (pp. 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. (p. 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.
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.(p. 209) 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.
Image below by Suzanne Blum Malley
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Image below by Suzanne Blum Malley