Bolter opens Chapter 6, “Refashioned Dialogues” by starting the conversation about writing technology’s role in defining the relationship between the time and space of texts (99); the readings for this week, as whole, further challenge us scholars, teachers and future teachers to consider that relationship and how it ties into making connections to reading, writing and also students’ revision processes. Though he goes into the varying relationships that develop through reading and writing in addition to the players involved – reader, writer, content, the paged book, the codex, the linear order itself, oral performances – he gets to the heart at what we’ve been exploring all the semester. He writes “What is true of all writing is something painfully obvious in a Platonic dialogue: the form invites the reader to participate in a conversation and then denies him or her full participation” (104). With collaborative projects like course wikis, hypertext and Wikipedia especially, writers’ and readers’ relationships become more reciprocal, and with tools that this week’s authors suggest, now even the writing and peer revision process can become an interactive conversation.
While yes, the tools and approaches from the readings can certainly be of assistance to writing instructors, I do question Bolter’s attempt to constantly delinearize argument and writing processes. I appreciate his attempt to “shoot again and again” past a question, “always from a closer position,” (107) however the question he poses here (which I assume by inviting us to postulate, he’s encouraging us to see his side): “Why should a writer be forced to produce a single, linear argument or an exclusive analysis and present several lines of thought at once?” (107). Well – because without the linear I think writing can get passed over or shunned, as we’ve done with Joyce’s afternoon. Are we capable of following non-linear argumentative paths? Also, while I’m certainly not against non-linear writing – what Sontag calls “inventive” (quoted in Bolter 107) – I’m just unsure of whether or not others will understand or appreciate the non-linearist's effort. Sure Derrida’s Glas (Bolter calls the “antibook”) challenged readers to find their own a paths (109), but what does the “rereading” that we must do “differently” look like? I’d like to see this in practice. In fact, I’d like to experience this myself (or did I with House of Leaves?…hmmm). I typically appreciate anything that goes against the proverbial grain, but I am curious: Why such great efforts to depart from the linear?… Should we, can we, or do we already teach the non-linear? I could certainly brainstorm both sides, but I’m wondering what you all think.
Confession: I am now a fan of developing hypertext.
The more I think about how it can be used by students in our classrooms, the more I’m keen on students developing their own hypertexts (as we did), and the more I hope to work with it in the future. Bolter ponders the Hypertextual Essay, though he also notes that they “remain uncommon” (111). I’m not entirely sure how I might teach a hypertexual essay assignment, although I do think there are benefits (and drawbacks). Bolter is sure to tell us, too, that “only the most consciously avant-garde” scholars produce hypertextual essays about their work with new media (which, I’m betting, involved hypertext). However – I bet someday, maybe even soon, the benefits in teaching students to work closely with hypertextual writing assignments will equal those of non-hypertextual assignments. While “hyperlinking could alter the form of the argument” (112) which scholars may not be too keen on, I do think hyperlinking could be used in some of Kajder’s projects. As I was thinking about hypertext and the problematic time constraints I might encounter with the Visual Read Aloud (Kadjer 44), I had thought: What if a hypertext project took the place of the visual read aloud? What if asking students to show a definition through their own eyes consisted of breaking down ideas into a series of hyperlinks to fine art pieces that represented how they saw the word? Karen Gallas claims, “to read a text with understanding and insight, we must move inside the text, pulling our life along with us and incorporating the text and our lives into a new understanding of the world” (quoted in Kadjer 51) – could this somehow be addressed by students’ building of hypertexts that may include hyperlinked photos, blog posts and perhaps accounts of current events that add to their understanding of a reading? (Or maybe this!) Pacey, Kajder's student, showed some signs of self-actualization having done his “Talking the Text” (36) – could we get this through a hypertext? With the right scaffolding, perhaps we could bring Kajder’s approaches into our classrooms more readily while guiding students on their journeys in keeping up with the digital age.
This leads to the conversation having to do the relationships between student writer, the revision process, and the instructor (this is actually what I’d like to do my own empirical research with at some point). I now see through Eyman and Reilly’s collection of research and through Kirtley’s findings that perhaps there are more (and maybe better) ways to teach the revision process (and reflection there of) than on paper and by hand (although, that’s my method for this very blog post). While I love this method, I admit, I appreciate the points presented. Even with “thoughtful instruction” (Eyman and Reilly 104), I know my students only revise on the sentence and surface level at times. While I am very explicit about digging deeper, and while other students get to the re-thinking I ask for, others don’t – and they are the ones that need it the most, I’m sure. My gut reaction to the simplicity of the Cut and Paste ideas are ones of skepticism; in thinking about the practicality, though – I’m game. I’m pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down. Building on how I currently ask students to write two separate introductions to their narratives, it might be helpful for students to use whatever conclusion they come to to then rewrite, say, the first page of their narrative. Also, I can see the value in the AutoSummarize tool as well as the passive voice tool, and the Track Changes options, but I have to also question whether or not this is skipping a crucial step in students being able to enter this process on their own (with our modeling). I’m not sure...(what about UMBs “buy a lot of pens” street cred?). Are any of you using these tools in peer revision process? I could brainstorm ways to build them in, but I’d love to hear what you are all doing, or what you think you could do. GoogleDocs, too, I know Kellie has mentioned her use of this tool but as with all technology, we encounter a few snares and snags.
Finally – just a few things about Kirtley’s study. This is the type of study I’ve been contemplating and building in my head for about a year and a half (somewhat). Interesting. Oddly, in thinking about the mindset of the college senior in 2001 – that was me. This gave me an interesting perspective – I both loved and loathed what she had to say. Shamefully, I found myself judging the nay-sayers and the “have-nots” (217). I would have been a have-not but my attitude about working with or on computers were nothing like that of Lulu. I’m certainly hoping that the “idea of listening to the students” (211) wasn’t a novel one, but more importantly I do think it’s interesting how Kirtley incorporated her students’ input on her study. And she took input from them and met them where they at in terms of her approach to “Writing and Technology.” Those things matter to me. I’m unsure, however, if the study holds weight considering she had only 11 students (at class’s end). I’m no statistician, and I certainly understand quality over quantity, but I’d love to see how a larger population study affects the outcome here (who’s up for collaboration?). One great idea I got from this is relates to her reference to teachers inviting their students to write letters at the start of the semester (223); I will have assigned three letters by the end of this semester, none dealing digital literacy. Perhaps in coming semesters I will assign a brief letter/autobio asking for not only reading and writing experiences, but also a sort of digital literacy component. We owe it to our future scholars to provide further experiences with digital literacies. We can meet them wherever they are at…
As I leave you with this lengthy account of this week – here are questions to ponder in starting the discussion of the non-linear, more hypertext, and the revision process:
1. What are your thoughts on written non-linear argument? Is there are place for it in our classrooms? (It even feels odd to ask this as though I made it up…but I didn’t, right? Maybe I missed something!)
2. Do you think hypertextual essay will eventually be valuable, or maybe even considered more of a mainstream type of writing assignment?
3. What sort of computerized tools have to used (or would you use) in teaching the revision process? Has anyone used the AutoSummarize, the passive voice tool, or the Track Changes…or GoogleDocs?
4. How might you use your own digital literacies to help your students overcome fears or hesitations about working with digital media and/or online tools?
Bolter, J.D. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. New York: Routledge, 2009.
Eyman, D. & Colleen Reilly. Revising with Word Processing/Technology/Document Design
Kajder, S. Brining the Outside In. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 2006. Print.
Kirtley, S. Students View on Technology and Writing: The Power of Personal History. Computers and Composition 22 (2005): 209-230.