One take an CCCCs presentation styles

April 14, 2008 at 6:14 pm (Interesting Side Discussions)


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class 4/14

April 14, 2008 at 2:43 pm (Discussion questions)

I just got called into work so I will not be in class tonight.  I only came up with one question for class last week based on the readings.  The authors continually pounded the reader with how great cyberspace is because it can allow people to find safety and security from the harsh realities of real life.  My question was is cyberspace really the utopia the authors made it out to be?  The authors did say it wasn’t perfect, but gave the impression that it is so much better than reality even though there might be even more hateful items on the web then one would run into in their own neighborhood.

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Computer Ethics

April 14, 2008 at 9:28 am (Reading responses)

Explore  the relationship between professional/technical writing and computers and composition. Reference at least two of this week’s readings in your exploration.

Sometimes I wish the authors of important articles would publish annotations of their outdated work, with lots of red underlines and additions and deletions.  Surely if Sullivan and Porter annotated their 1993 “Remapping Curricular Geography: Professional Writing in/and English,” the focus would shift to computers in a major way.  The single paragraph dedicated solely to computers (including the importantly prescient statement, “[P]rofessional writing is a major born to handle these writing technologies” [412]) would have arrows pointing to the back of the page, where Sullivan and Porter would scribble up to the margins a discussion of how this discipline’s “birth” has variously managed to “handle” new technologies in the last 15 years.  I would be especially interested to hear about how professional writing manages to teach the ever-necessary computer use in contemporary job situations without falling into the trap of focusing on just a few programs and technologies: word processing, spreadsheets, a smattering of web design, and that’s all.  In other words, I’m curious about where today’s possibilities intersect with today’s jobs’ expressed computer writing needs.

But what I really want to talk about is this idea of the ethics of well-written, user/reader-centered professional/technical writing, an idea that kept surprising me when it popped up in the reading.  This might be a stretch, but I think this idea is valuable in the context of computers and composition because of intellectual property and ethical issues that are so crucial to just about any conversation about computers and writing.  Salvo claims that “professional technical communicators have an ethical responsibility to articulate the challenges of communicating technology” (323-24), and Sullivan and Porter similarly discuss the ethics of communicating information in an efficient, understandable way.  When that communication enters todays world, where it’s being written on computers that are networked to millions of sites offering examples and sources of material for one’s own technical writing purposes, this ethic of efficient communication enters a tension with the ethics of plagiarism in different contexts and maybe even with copyright law.

I think that tension is kind of awesome, honestly.  I love the idea of students wrestling with what it means to create text that serves its particular need not in a vacuum, but in a datacloud (Johnson-Eilola’s term) of other people creating their own texts that serve their own needs, with lots and lots of overlap.  When so many examples are accessible to the professional writer, how much does he write on his own?  How much does he take?  When does composing mean the act of dreaming up words in a bubble, and when does it mean something more akin to borrowing, remixing, recreating?  And if one of the primary ethical components of professional writing is an implied contract with the reader to be meaningful and understandable, when does that concern trump that other implied contract: that the reader is reading the words of the writer?  (I could go on for days…)


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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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kz Prompt 1 and I didn’t get it either

April 14, 2008 at 1:32 am (Reading responses)

Johnson reminds us that there is wisdom, in the global sense of the word, in the things we know how to do. This, he says, often remains under-appreciated or unacknowledged, particularly as compared to technical knowledge. He also calls attention to all the various ways we use some sort of interface with the world, the door to a bank, for example, or the sidewalk leading up to the door. This prepares us for his discussion of user-centered design. I have to try to finish this tomorrow. It took me too long to read the articles (I didn’t finish Sullivan & Porter), and now it’s 2:30 and I have to get up tomorrow morning and see if an AARP volunteer will be able to do my taxes. Do them better, that is. So that I don’t owe $1500. I made $12,000 last year, and $6,000 went to pay my health insurance (in California). So I had $6,000 to live on for an entire year, and the government thinks that’s too much?? I should bring it down to $4,500. I was leading the high life. Oh I can’t think about this now or I won’t get to sleep and then I won’t get to the library which means my taxes will be late and they’ll throw me in jail. After they charge me a penalty. Oh, I forgot, they really do need my money. There’s that war that’s protecting us from terrorists I have to pay for. Oh, ok. I understand. Let me go find a little flag so I can wave it and sing God Bless America.

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Week 14 Response – Prompt 2

April 14, 2008 at 12:33 am (Reading responses)

Explore the relationship between professional/technical writing and computers and composition. Reference at least two of this week’s readings in your exploration.

The relationship that I see between computers and composition and professional/technical writing is that of two sub-disciplines in the English field that are developing into their own fields of study. As such, they are bumping into other disciplines within English and in other fields.

Both new fields also have barriers to overcome when it comes to analyzing the performance of teaching professionals within these fields. As Salvo discusses, since these two fields have much more interaction with computers, it is much harder for departmental hierarchy (who generally lack the technical knowledge of younger teachers) to include a professor’s technological expertise in an assessment of their educational abilities. Are they just “techies” that teach or are their computer skills a part of their academic skill set? And how much weight should these skills get when looking at issues such as promotion or tenure?

Another parallel relationship between these two fields lies with their inherent interdisciplinary nature. Because they rely so heavily on input and extrapolation from disciplines outside of English, they might not be seen equally valid areas of study when compared to a more isolated area like literature. Johnson talks about this in his first chapter of Situating Technology when he talks about the two-edged sword of interdisciplinary research. He says,” the problem of becoming so dependent on the borrower that we fail to reciprocate back into the interdisciplinary milieu with any contribution of our own.” (Johnson 15)

While Johnson is talking about the real danger of subverting your own field by relying on others for your data and supportive scholarship, there can also be a perception within and without the English field that an area of study that is so dependent on outside scholarship must be less worthy on its own merits.
– M. Markham

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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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Prompt 2

April 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm (Reading responses)

When it comes to technical writing and computers and composition, they tend to blur the lines.  Technical writing is different in the sense that technical writers use the technology to get the job done and computers and composition look at the rhetoric within the technology to accomplish some goal.  This was seen in the article Critical engagement with technology in the computer classroom.  The students coming into his class “expected the class to tech website design […and] how to use current tools such as Dreamweaver and Frontpage” (salvo, 320).  These students appeared to be more technical writing focused.  They wanted to learn the technologies in order to use them to build websites.  They soon learned that the class was geared towards the rhetorical side of technology.  Instead of the students being involved in a “system-centered model” they evolved into the “user-centered model” (johnson).  Johnson also discusses the steps where technology was just for use to trying to understand the effects it has and how it got to where it is.  He is almost comparing the technical writer and computer and composition; Although, I think technical writers have to also understand rhetoric behind technologies in order for them to make their designs presentable to possible clients.


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in response to prompt 2–but i don’t get it

April 13, 2008 at 7:32 pm (Reading responses)

Bryant, Kendra Nicole

13 April 2008


Prompt 2: Explore the relationships between professional / technical writing and computers and composition.


                After reading Robert Johnson’s “Users, Technology, and the Complexity of the Mundane: Some ‘Out of the Ordinary’ Thoughts,” along with Michael J. Salvo’s “Critical Engagement with Technology in the Computer Classroom,” I’m not sure how to answer the prompt instructing me to “explore the relationships between professional / technical writing and computers and composition.”  It seems that Johnson’s article explores the technologies, like the sidewalk, that are used so often, that they become mundane, and thus overlooked, while Salvo’s article provides an outline of a course he is instructing that requires his students to critically analyze technology, versus simply creating technological spaces, such as Web pages.   I guess if I were to analyze both articles, and attempt to answer the prompt, I figure the differences between professional / technical writing and computers and composition, is that professional / technological writing seems to explore more of how to use technologies, versus the rhetoric of technologies, which seems to be a topic that surfaces in discussions regarding computers and composition.  (I don’t know).

                Johnson writes that “arts of rhetoric can be used to resurrect this lost art form of knowledge and make it visible” (25).  The “lost art form” that Johnson is referring to, I assume, are those technologies that have become “mundane,” and he is suggesting that writing about their uses can revive their importance.  But I still don’t know how to connect this article with the required prompt.

                Then, in Salvo’s piece, he writes that “As a rhetorical field, technical writing speaks to the history and tradition of the design of communication—recording the ways in which practices and opportunities have emerged and receded, and this Web based age will add to its unique concerns to the tradition” (332).  Again, I really don’t get it.  But I think when exploring the relationship between professional / technical writing and computers and composition, there seems to be more theory involved in computers and composition, versus professional and technical writing. 


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