Summary: 1 a: a simultaneous discharge of two or more guns in military action or as a salute

April 14, 2008 at 8:37 am (Summaries)

Salvo, Michael J.  “Critical Engagement with Technology in the Computer Classroom.”  Technical Communication Quarterly 11 (2002): 317-37.

In this article, Salvo offers an extended description of his graduate course “Information Architecture,” a technical communication course designed as a way for students to practice various aspects of technical writing and design while simultaneously criticizing various information objects and their wider contexts.  Salvo’s hope is that the course will “introduce theories of user-centered design to a population resistant to theorizing” (320); students came to his course expecting “practical skills” instead of thoughtful criticism.

Students analyze the design of a “techno-cultural artifact” (321; that’s a t-shirt logo if I’ve ever seen one), situate themselves as users of good and bad designs, map out physical spaces in search of problematic space architecture, design their own “information, or virtual, objects” (323), and in good grad-school fashion, argue about the meaning(s) of the central term of the course, information architecture.  One of Salvo’s most intriguing/inspiring goals is for students to see themselves as “technical rhetoricians” who have “an ethical responsibility to articulate the challenges of communicating technology” (323-4).

Salvo also discusses the physical layout of the computer classroom in which he teaches the course (providing a handy map), suggesting ways that physical layout of a room can become a text for discussion in the course.  In the course and the article, this space becomes an important call for students and instructors of technical communication to attend to the history and cultural location of various objects.



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Anything but mundane – A summary of Robert Johnson

April 13, 2008 at 11:04 pm (Summaries)

Johnson, Robert R. (1998). Users, technology, and the complex(ity) of the mundane: Some “out of the ordinary” thoughts. In User-centered technology: a rhetorical theory for computers and other mundane artifacts (pp. 3-16). Albany: State University of New York Press.

Since this is first chapter of a book, the focus of course very broad. The two main ideas are that of the “mundane” and the “user.” Johnson’s focus on the mundane is the idea of our everyday interaction with technologies and how that relates to how technology is developed and used. Connected to this is the idea of the user and how they teach us more about technologies than the people who create those technologies.

To establish this picture of the mundane, Johnson first tells a historical story about maple sugar producers, which references a young Thoreau and how a simple-seeming technology can be composed of many different technologies. This story also touches on how these technologies are learned through practice instead of through instruction. Johnson says, “We learn of know-how and use through practice, so that the practice defines the theory of our actions: the actions of know-how and use.”

Then in the next section, Johnson tells three autobiographical stories about interacting with technology. Although all three stories focused on Johnson’s ideas about how use of technology can be more important than the design of a technology, the story about using an early Macintosh computer, or more specifically the confusion of ejecting a disk from one, connected very closely with me. He then uses the stories to illustrate the point that the importance of the user experience with technology has been diminished with the era of technological specialization and the culture of expertise. Because of this he says, “we take for granted that which we do and unwittingly surrender knowledge and power due to our lack of reflection on our mundane interactions with technology”.

The last section of the chapter focuses on using this information to develop a theory of user-centeredness. This focuses on the idea that there is a “knowledge of use” that is acquired by interacting with technology, whether or not the user knows a lot about that technology.

After putting forth this idea and discussing how he will examine it, Johnson starts up an excellent discussion of interdisciplinary research. He says that interdisciplinary research is “a two-edged sword.” While it allows researchers to develop a broad discussion of the topic, by bringing all these different disciplines into your research, your own contributions to the idea or to your discipline may be watered down.
-M. Markham

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Summary- Johnson Ch. 2

April 13, 2008 at 9:35 pm (Summaries)

Johnson starts this chapter with discussing technology and rhetoric. He feels rhetoric plays a crucial part with the development of technology. He gives an example of how rhetoric is intertwined with technology with the comment “good” (Johnson, 22). He says we do these technological accomplishments through the good of mankind. This statement shows how rhetoric affects technology. The popularity of a technology is directly related to the impression it has on the majority. This is why rhetoric plays such a key factor in the deveopment of technology. Johnson then talks about the different models of technology which include “system-centered model” and “user-centered-model” (Johnson). He shows that technology that excludes rhetoric will fall into the first model mentioned. This is where the user learns and adapts to the program; in other words, the technology is more in control than the user. The second model mentioned involves rhetoric. The technology is completely controlled by the user and their input. The fact the user can be influenced while using the technology is how rhetoric comes into play. The user can decide what needs to be improved and what makes using this technology easy. Johnson includes a triangle diagram which shows how this user-centered model has the same setup as the triangle diagram for writing a piece of composition. He believes the rhetoric involved in this model is what makes the technology so efficient in learning about the users.


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Vieregge Summary of “Remapping”

April 13, 2008 at 5:48 pm (Summaries)

Sullivan, Patricia, & Porter, James E. (1993). Remapping curricular geography: Professional writing in/and English. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 7, 4: 389-422.

Some articles are literature reviews without any aim towards devloping a thesis or concentrated argument. This is not a criticism; it is simply a genre of writing, one that is often found in anthologies. Other articles are argumentative pieces that only bring in outside research when necessary. They argue a particular position. Curiously, this article, “Remapping Curricular Geography: Professional Writing in/and English” is both. The idea behind this article is to make some sense of what we mean when we say “technical writing,” “professional writing,” “business writing,” and “writing across the curriculum. The research method of the authors is to cull together different definitions others have created in their curriculum, mission statements, and journal articles. The article begins by giving an overview of everything professional writing can mean, including “professional writing as a research field,” “professional writing as a workplace activity,”  and as a curricular subject (392). What strikes me about these three definitions and the tension the article follows with is that students and faculty seem to be debating which of the first two definitions should be the driving force behind the third. Should research inform teaching, and if so how? Or should practical concerns for how to write different professional documents be the primary concern for teachers in the professional writing classroom? The ultimate purpose behind this article is to answer these questions, but the next step in this article’s progression is to argue contextualize these fields in English Studies in general. On page 393, there is a very helpful graph that separates fields in English Studies. This graph shows how creative writing, literature, and rhet com are more academic centered, whereas professional writing, etc. are more centered on pragmatic instruction. The article points out how internal strife over values and perceived differences have often divided English Depatments – and still do. The central two questions are, “Do one of these fields umbrella the others?” and “Are these fields concerned with humanistic concerns or concerns of the work-a-day world. The chart on 397 implies that Rhet Communication encompasses the others, and that therefore Rhet Comm is somewhat more practically organized, whereas the other fields are somewhat more theoretical. The article concludes that professional writing is more concerned with a breadth of writing concerns and is more rhetorically based, but technical writing is more concerned with technological concerns. This to me would place technical writing as a theoretical field, as well.  Ultimately, the authors make the claim that this is not simply a idle concern, for English departments must answer these questions to thrive during changing and divisive times.   

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Writing Queer Digital Youth

April 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm (Summaries)

Bryant, Kendra Nicole

7 April 2008


Writing Queer Digital Youth: A Case of Identity and Community on the Web

Jonathan Alexander


            In Jonathan Alexander’s “Writing Queer Digital Youth,” Alexander explores various websites  such as, PlanetOut, GayScape, CyberSocket, and OutProud, to showcase the impact “e-savvy queer youth and their writing on the Web (are) having on how such youth configure and construct themselves as queer and sexual” (231).   He begins his research by providing some history on previous queer studies, and examining articles by analysts such as Nina Wakeford, Steve Silberman, Randall Woodland, Joanna Addison, and Michelle Comstock who have claimed that youth media have impact, and that people should “view queer youth sites as ‘important sites for resistance reproduction and pleasure’” (236).   According to these researchers, “The Internet and the web provide a wealth of opportunities for explaining how a variety of queers construct, represent and articulate their own understanding of sexuality, sexual orientation and sexual politics” (230).  In addition, they believe that “the web offers a nearly unparalleled opportunity to explore what young queer people think about sexuality, both its personal and its political dimensions” (231). 

            Although Alexander strongly concurs with the aforementioned researchers’ claims, and agrees that the Internet has revolutionized the experiences of growing up gay, Alexander claims that these researchers have limited their studies to exploring how the Web provides safe (or safer) spaces for queers, and researchers like Addison and Comstock have even limited their research to gay-les-bi, and have failed to include transgender in their studies (237-238).  Therefore, says Alexander, his studies “extend the understanding of how queer digital youth use the Web to communicate information about their lives, interests, and sociocultural investments” (238).  According to Alexander, “recent web authoring by young queers demonstrates that their interests and concerns…encompass a wider variety of issues many of which reveal a complex and sophisticated grapping with issues of sexuality, sexual identity, and the constitution of the gay community” (237-238).  Thus, Alexander uses Google and Yahoo to find sites for analysis, choosing 20 from which he focuses his studies.

            In addition to analyzing the 20 queer oriented sites that Alexander discovers via Google and Yahoo, he also focuses on sites authored by queer youth, such as Mogenic and, in order to discover “what kinds of representations, images and depictions queer digital youth foster of themselves when they control the content of the Web spaces designed for them” (252).  According to Alexander, “queer youth seem invested in discussing political issues surrounding queerness, exploring the diversity of identity and sexual expression in the queer community, and in having discussions about sexual practices and safe sex education” (252).

            To further expand his discussion on queer digital youth, Alexander provides a lengthy interview with lesbian digital writer Emily J, a nineteen year old student at UC whose contact with other gays and lesbian was via media resources.  According to Emily, the Internet was her only connection to the outside world, and it was vital in her coming out.  Stories like Emily’s, says Alexander, are common for many other queer youth who find safety and assurance in Internet use; however, Alexander claims that the Internet is not always a safe place for queers, and often, they, like Bishop Gene Robinson who was condemned for his association with a gay Internet site that housed links to pornographic sites, have to be careful how much of their personal lives they expose on the web, for fear that certain Internet relationships come back to hunt them during their strives for professional accomplishments.

            Finally, Alexander concludes his essay by discussing how digital youth write their lives, thus producing sexual literacy.  He claims that the digital sites he examined in his article showcases “the web as a space for hashing out fairly complex understandings…of sexuality and sexual orientation identity (273).

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kz summary Haraway’s Modest Witness

April 7, 2008 at 1:38 am (Summaries)

Haraway discusses the work of Shapin and Schaffer, whose Leviathan and the Air Pump examined Robert Boyle’s design of an air pump to reveal the essential components of scientific objectivity in the seventeenth century. The scientists proposed a “modest witness,” an observer-experimenter whose transparency would not affect  the experiment. She argues that the authors (who were credited with showing that social factors and ideology influenced Boyle’s work) overlooked the fact that the “modest witness” was always male. This strong social tendency to see male as “generic” is problematic, of course:  “They took his masculine gender for granted without much comment. Like the stubbornly reproduced lacunae in the writing of many otherwise innovative science studies scholars, the gap in their analysis seems to depend on the unexamined assumption that gender is a preformed, functionalist category…” (226). She later points out that some scholars have noted the “proliferation of violent, misogynist imagery in many of the chief documents of the Scientific Revolution. The modest man had a least a tropic taste for the rape of nature” (233). Haraway unveils the sinister side of the “nature as female” trope, as well as the masculine culture deluding itself as “the culture of no culture.”  (note to mwz- I know this is a bit scant but I’ve been struggling to read it and write about it because I’m having an arthritis flare and have had to up my pain meds. I will re-read it when I’m clearer– Donna Haraway is very interesting.)

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Vieregge Summary of Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto

April 6, 2008 at 3:56 pm (Summaries)

Haraway, Donna J. (2004). A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s. In The Haraway Reader  (1-45). New York: Routledge.

In “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism 1980s,” Donna Haraway argues that the emergence of cyborgs in human culture has merged the differences between man/woman God/man, mind/body and forced both people in general and scholars to reconsider what we mean by gender. Indeed, Cyborgs have forced us to reconsider what gender is. Her writing style is very abstract and poetic and juxtaposes various metaphors together, just as she claims humans have been combined with computers. Her claim is not that the 20th and 21st centuries have begun the tradition of the cyborg, but that it has taken on new importance with the emergence of new technology.

She writes that “by the late twentieth century. . . we are all chimeras” (8), and this shift means that humans behave in different ways.  These differences force us to reconsider male heterosexual dominance in two different ways: first, cyborgs are by definition “unnatural” and therefore the terminology we use to discuss them forces us to consider that our conceptions of humanity are arbitrary – or at least culturally constructed (20-21). By seeing how gender constructions are just that . . . constructions, we can provide a new viewpoint on gender and sexuality. Second, they force us to reconsider feminism, itself, Feminism should not try to replace one all-encompassing philosophy about humanity with another, but instead feminists should avoid an “essentialist” theory, even in opposition to more dominant ideologies. One should use cyborgs as a way of articulating resistence against the idea of compartmentalization itself. Cyborgs make us reconsider both individualism and social determinism. Instead, the concept of the monsterous – much as in the medieval period and before – can be used as a lens to talk about what is on the “borderlands” (10, 38). Cyborgs break down and resist the conceptions of the individual. Haraway ends her article by summarizing her two main positions, that the “production of a universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake” and that cyborg imagery can undermine the dualisms that Haraway feels are damaging to our society (and possibly even “child abuse”). Instead, we should use cyborg imagery to create different conceptions of what humanity is all about. 

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Summary — Taylor

April 5, 2008 at 7:06 pm (Summaries)

Taylor, T.L. (2006). Where the women are. In Play between worlds: exploring online game culture (pp. 93-124). Cambridge: MIT Press.

In this article, T.L. Taylor discusses the phenomenon in which female gamers are marginalized.  Although gaming is typically thought of as an activity primarily for males, a large percentage of gamers are female; however, since the market is assumed to be mostly male, game design often neglects the interests of its female partakers.  Taylor also examines the reasons women play video games, debunking the usual claims that women play for social interaction while men play for a sense of achievement or power.  As Taylor demonstrates, in reality, women’s motivations for gameplay are very complex, and involve social interaction, a desire for demonstrating skill and achieving “status,” exploration in a safe(r) environment where gender is not a factor, and as an acceptable outlet for aggression.  However, Taylor also points out some issues with game design’s insensitivity (or just complete lack of notice) of feminine representations within games, stating that avatars are usually highly stereotypical and emphasize a highly sexual appearance (tying back to the attention to the male demographic in the design and marketing of the games).  Taylor posits that the body is an important part of how people relate and construct identity, and therefore the appearance of the avatars in-game is an important issue, which shows the need for designers to “rise to the challenge presented by a sociology of the body and a more complicated understanding (and rendering) of gender” so as to draw in a more diverse gaming population and “legitimize those already playing” (125).


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Summary week 12

March 31, 2008 at 4:51 pm (Summaries)

J.T. Grabill discusses how the digital divide is growing more than people think.  He first talks about the divide itself.  This is not limited to just income and education.  There are more factors including race, family history, and environmental influences.  The NTIA came out with a survey showing how different races are way below the national average when it comes to ICTs.  Even when these groups have money and a higher education, they still do not reach the national average, which is exceeded by only White and Asian/Pacific Islanders.  He also recognizes why there is an importance to the digital divide other than the obvious.  Our country is made up of infrastructures, which in turn are directly intermingled with the percentage of ICT users.  Without these users, society cannot be built up as great.  Even looking at statistics now the divide is growing for the lower classes and minorities.  This complex problem needs to be addressed if we expect our culture and infrastructures to grow.  -chris-

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Summary: Gruber

March 31, 2008 at 6:23 am (Summaries)

Gruber, Sibylle (2007). Living in different cultures: Experiences of the borderlands. In Literacies, experiences, and technologies (pp. 29-54). Cresskill: Hampton Press. 

In this difficult-to-summarize chapter, Gruber describes the issues that both she and one of her students, Alba, faced as they integrated into the American university system and the ways their identities and writings were shaped by that new environment.  This is a purposeful theoretical move; Gruber writes, “I also want to show that as a researcher I need to be critically aware of my own interpretations of my work and my own positionalities as the researcher and teacher in this context” (29-30).  Gruber contextualizes these stories into a wealth of published criticism about identity, with a focus on academic discourse and critical race theories, and a special interest in the ways that Alba’s online writing engaged difficult issues with a voice and sophistication she didn’t use in class.  Gruber’s scope is broad as she moves from story to story, discussing the following issues, among others: the struggle between family and fitting into dominant society; the class divide on campus; the ways their experiences alternately confirm or contradict various theories (say, the exact way one lives in the “borderlands); the context behind quiet students in class; women’s education; and the ways instructors can/should respond to students’ difficult posts.


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