The Materials of Composing

September 27, 2008

On the other blog––I just posted some of what I’ll talk about at NCTE–and in Pennsylvania in two weeks.

One point I make is about the materials of composing; they include paper, words, images, links, audio files, annotations–and more, of course. For an interesting example of how the electronic contibutes to the materiality of composition, it’s worth looking at Jeff Rice’s syllabus for TAs teaching comp:


Composing in the 21st Century

September 7, 2008

On Saturday, I’m giving a talk for the FSU site of the National Writing Project: on composing in the 21st century. And some of what I’m saying in that talk is here–the talk being more of an interactive session, where participants will write and talk and complete a survey in addition to listening to me, which is really more like watching the screen and listening to me ;). 

One point I’ll emphasize on Saturday is that it’s increasingly apparent that when we see a meaningful opportunity, we *want* to write, and such writing can occur in any number of spaces–on the page and on the screen and for the network. Another point is how much opportunity there is to write now: take a look at all the I-reporter sites, where people upload photos and descriptions, videos and personal accounts.

In looking at all this composing, we might say that one big change is the role of audience: it’s everywhere. Especially in social networking sites like Facebook, which is the subject of an interesting NYTimes article today. The article talks about Facebook providing a commons for people, not unlike the commons that used to be in small towns, and an interesting response to Putnam’s discussion of community in Bowling Alone.  Putnam claims, based on some impressive data, that in the late 20th century, community participation declined.  No doubt that’s so, but this is the 21st, and participation of many varieties is increasing almost exponentially–whether measured in the number and kinds of Facebook posts, the daily increase in activity on the NCTE NING social site, the number of students involved in this year’s elections,  the numbers of blogs and the increase in little magazines and even in the number of text messages I seem to get from persons, political campaigns, and my own institution. 😉 

In a lot of this new composing, we are writing to share, yes; to encourage dialogue, perhaps; but mostly, I think, to participate. If we think about a curriculum in composing as assisting students to participate, what would it look like?

Is there a new epoch in literacy?

September 1, 2008

That’s a bold claim! And one I’m going to outline in the presidential talk.

Even though it’s a bold claim, it’s one that I think is evidenced everywhere–in handwritten notes that we still compose (see this image for example); in diverse electronic texts; in social networking sites of all kinds. I see it–and so do we all, whether we like it or not. Research–by the newmedia group at MIT sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and the Pew Foundation–documents the fact that people are composing in multiple genres and for several purposes and audiences. Many folks, including myself (see, for example, myCCCC Chair’s Addresshave made this observation, so that part isn’t new.  What is new, I think, is a set of questions and forecasts:

**What role/s, if any, has writing played in the development of literacy?

**What does that role tell us about the relationship of literacy, writing, identity, and democracy?                 

**If I am correct in identifying this moment as the moment of writing, what are the implications for education?                                                                                                                                                  

**And in this discussion, what do we mean by the word writing?