Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Writing Hub

Shetler, Angela, Susan Thomas, Frances Di Lauro, and Benjamin Miller. “Multimodal Writing Instruction in a Global World.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 17.3 (2013): n. pag. Web. 1 December 2013. http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/17.3/praxis/shetler-et-al/index.html.

All four authors teach in the “Writing Hub” at the University of Sydney. Shetler’s expertise is in professional writing, and her research includes various topics related to authorship, globalization, and digital environments. Thomas focuses on rhetorical history and theory, as well as writing across the curriculum, writing centers, and writing program administration. Di Lauro takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching writing, and Miller researches contemporary Australian society through a lens of rhetorical theory.

This webtext presents the University of Sydney’s “Writing Hub,” a hybrid of a writing center and a writing program, as a new way to teach writing, suitable for a heavily digital society. In most Australian high schools and universities, the authors explain, writing programs are not founded in rhetorical studies, focusing instead on grammatical and mechanical correctness, and tend to stress single authorship of standard essays — much like many high schools, colleges, and universities in America.

The Writing Hub, however, incorporates a strong rhetorical foundation, focusing on five tenets: audience, context, collaboration, discovery, and writing as a conversation. In addition to common rhetorical concerns, this program also stresses approaching the writing process through the lens provided by the digital world.

Students are encouraged to write, revise, edit, collaborate, discover material for use in their writing, and receive feedback in digital environments. They also are encouraged to use multimodal composition in their writing assignments. The approach that the authors detail provides a useful model for us to follow as writing teachers.

While some of the webtext focuses on how the program is set up or on its treatment of rhetorical concerns, it treats digital literacy as a key undercurrent throughout most of its sections. Particularly, the discovery section discusses encouraging students to research topics online, using their digital exploration to arrive at a claim. Other sections — audience, context, conversation, and collaboration — incorporate discussion of writing in electronic environments in a similarly holistic manner.

When I read this in the course of my research for an assignment for Composition Theory, I was struck by this treatment of incorporating digital tools at every stage of the writing process. Digital and technological literacy need to be included as teaching goals as much as possible, and that means teaching students how to use technology to help them at every stage of the process.

Additionally, rethinking Invention as Discovery, using digital the digital world as a lens for this reimagining, is a very useful way to think about the rhetorical canons. One recurring element of my semester, at least in my two RHET classes, has been that I’m thinking more and more about what the canons really look like in the present day. If I weren’t on the portfolio track, anticipating graduating in May, and planning to seek employment outside academia, I might consider doing some major research on that topic. Alas, I really just don’t have time right now, and I’m not sure I ever will.

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101001111001101 at work

Peck, Don. “They’re Watching You at Work.” The Atlantic December 2013. 72-84. Print. Also available at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/12/theyre-watching-you-at-work/354681/.

Don Peck is The Atlantic‘s deputy editor. He is also the author of Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It. Much of his writing focuses on post-2008-crash economics.

This article focuses on various practices surrounding people analytics, which involves using data about employees — or prospective employees — to predict behavior in the workplace, and sometimes to make decisions about hirings, firings, promotions, and so on. These data are collected in a variety of ways: Some companies have employees play electronic games designed to gather information about personality and decision-making skills; others examine electronic paper trails (for lack of a better term) that display how workers behave.

Peck makes the claim that this change to the way employers deal with employees is, in the long term, good for workers. He says “we’re headed toward a labor market that’s fairer to people at every stage of their careers,” that analytics might provide a way for those whose educations are lacking or who made some mistakes at a relatively early age to not “routinely get left behind for good.” In short, he says that data and the digital world are providing more opportunities for more people.

I’m not so sure I agree. As I read this article, I didn’t really imagine many new chances for people who have fallen through the tracks. Rather, it seems to me, people whose data profiles (which, again, in some cases are formed by their performance on a video-game app) don’t totally jibe with everything a company is looking for might never even get a chance. While there’s no doubt that the digital world has enabled some people to find new ways to get an education or earn a living, reducing people to ones and zeroes is more than a little unsettling, and the idea of basing most personnel decisions on such data rather than on qualitative, personal assessments is downright scary.

Then again, people analytics, while not a totally new field, is developing and evolving rapidly. I just might be wrong.

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