Hello, all. For your readerly enjoyment, some potential conversation starters. As always, feel free to digress and/or to bring our wiki edits to bear.
* Multiliteracies for a Digital Age asks us to imagine what conditions are necessary for the creation of computers+writing assignments, courses, and programs that are “comprehensive, innovative, and relevant” (7). And Selber’s proposal looks (forgive my excessive reductiveness) something like this:
We make technologies’ dynamics visible by learning to make tech-things and to make with tech-things (obtaining and helping our students to obtain functional literacy). We make technologies’ dynamics visible by learning to take tech-things apart along temporal and ideological axes, to extrapolate or explore how they came to be and what power dynamics/ways of knowing supported that coming to be (in other words, we critique them, obtaining critical literacy). We make technologies’ dynamics visible by dwelling on how others—audiences—construct, interact with, and are influenced by technologies (obtaining rhetorical literacy).
Of course, I badly skewed the previous paragraph because I’m curious: is it fair to say that Selber’s is a book built around the practice of visibility politics? What happens if we do? I’ve got a history of uneasiness with the term, which is why I’m interested in these questions. Are there situations in which visibility gets dangerous with regards to computers and education? What happens when we throw the distinction between transparency and visibility into the mix (the two terms often get deployed as metaphors for the same concept, which strikes me as troubling and confusing and interesting). What about the Selfe in relation to this issue?
* In the [introduction standard] summary-of-things-to-come, Selber describes Multiliteracies’ fifth, crowning chapter as “attempt[ing] to help teachers develop a full-scale program that integrates functional literacy, critical literacy, and rhetorical literacy in ways that are useful and professionally responsible” (28). There are two things here that are of particular interest to me, and I’d be interested in others’ takes on them.
(1) The question of scale—what does full-scale mean or imply in this context? Do you buy the fractal metaphor, whereby the basic structure of Selber’s Multiliteracy approach is self-similar and translatable across scales? With regards to our conversation two classes ago, the issue of the jump from local curriculum planning to cross-institution policy making both troubles and interests.
(2) Relatedly, what values are betrayed by Selber’s coupling of “useful and professionally responsible”? What does it mean to be not just responsible but “professionally” responsible? Is this problematic for any one else?
* In light of our ongoing re-visionings of the Selfe article, I’m also curious: do we think Selber delivers as much usable how-to as he promises? Are the practical elements of the text convincing? Does this book from 2004 feel accurate to our current experiences, or does Selber too need an update? Do people have favorite example assignments? Given the chance, would you take (or would you have taken as an undergrad) the courses he describes? Are there implications hidden in the fact that many of Selber’s examples seem to come from technical writing classes?
* Selber is well tuned to the frameworks provided by colleges and universities; are there ways in which we can take the lessons of Multiliteracies and learn more about the sorts of extra-curricular situations that have been popping up in our class discussions? That is, what about other sites of learning? Community workshops and/or informal gameplay? —Selber makes it clear that other sites impinge upon the classroom, but in relation to that dynamic there seems to be more critiquing and rhetorically analyzing than doing. Do you all agree? See something I’m missing? He does mention having students do real client work to engage with business communities, but I’m trying to think toward less corporate interests.
In other words, what happens when we tilt classroom discussions of institutionality toward the university as a particular institution? That’s something I see happening not in Selber’s framing (which is broad ranging) but in his examples. I fully expected—perhaps in part because of the Selfe article that we’ve been wrestling toward the present moment—the types of assignments where students are asked to critique (culturally or rhetorically) interfaces and technology services. I was more surprised by assignments that asked students to explore things like the challenges faculty face when working with/through/against institutional technology issues. Is dwelling on something like that really an ideal use of limited time? Is this part of being “professionally responsible” rather than just “responsible”?
* We teach and practice critical and rhetorical literacies, in part, so that we can know “what we’re getting into” when we make/consume texts and media. But maybe it is worth dwelling on the fact that sometimes knowing too much about where you want to go and how hard it is to get there can be a detriment rather than an aid? (I know; I know: the slippery slope. But this relates to my next and last point.)
* All semester, we’ve been navigating the terrain between utopia and dystopia, determinisms and systems in which we as individual humans have some sort of “power” to author our own experiences. Aware of this terrain’s many perils, Selber seems to be trying to provide us with a middle-ground model that is cautiously optimistic. In the chapter on critical literacy, Selber quotes Gee and suggests to us that our goal is “to resist while advancing” (98).
He reminds us that “educational systems organize and mutate over time” and that “open systems are living systems,” suggesting potentiality and/or futurity; yet in the same passage he warns, “inertia is in the direction of reductive functional approaches, and conservative minds can buffet even the best-laid plans” (191-2). The challenge, then, seems to be: to be the bodies that change the momentum of the systems within which we work, live, and imagine.
I wonder if overcoming of all that inertia might be aided by adoption of a wilder breed of optimism? Cultivation of wilder classroom dispositions? How, as teachers-students-administrators, do we sustain ourselves over the long-haul that change requires?
** Lastly, one small request for Monday’s class: bring (or be ready to produce quickly) three mind-sized bites (either from or not from your blog post is fine). Content-wise, anything goes: direct quotes from the text, tiny anecdotes from your own teaching or studenting or otherwise living, notes on other readings/concepts Selber called to mind, reactionary statements/opinions/feelings, a definition of a (new) keyword, a question you have about the text, really anything. Ideally, each bit should be something that can be summed up in a single phrase or sentence (maybe two). Be ready to label each bit based on which one of Selber’s literacies (functional, critical, rhetorical) it seems most directly relevant to. It would be lovely if you had one for each literacy, but do as you will.