In "Writing in the Twenty-First Century," Kathleen Blake Yancey describes the history of experiential and curricular writing in the US, noting that today we are in a completely different era in which writing acts as participation and is available to students in ways to which we must adapt our teaching and composing models. She writes that:

We can and should respond to these new composings and new sites of composings with new energy and a new composing agenda. Let me also suggest that an historical perspective like the one I’ve sketched out here helps us understand an increasingly important role for writing: to foster a new kind of citizenship, one that has roots in an earlier time but that is being reimagined today.
I completely agree with this statement, but wonder how we can do so in such a way that avoids the "creepy treehouse" model theorized over the TechRhet listserv. Creepy treehouses are spaces adults build for young(er) people in attempts to attract them to the spaces or activities they want the youth to attend to by making it seem like the spaces youth enjoy. Students or young people see right through the attempt, of course, and often play along but half-heartedly. The difference is about self-sponsorship (a la Brandt). We want to take our agendas for writing development to the places where young people already enjoy writing, but even using these spaces their writing is no longer self-sponsored; it becomes compulsory. What sort of means are available for making room for truly self-sponsored writing in the 21st century writing classroom???

Reading Wysocki's piece I am struck by her call for us to reflect upon and define the materiality of writing as it unfurls across various media and in so many spaces. It occurred to me that I have a difficult time thinking of the new media spaces and old media texts in a strictly material way. The google sites I use in my classroom, the pdf's I upload to it, the writing tasks posted by my students, the videos we create and share, I tend to think of these in almost purely social and epistemological terms---they are ideas, they are thoughts, they are inquiries, they are investigations. I can only hope that this does not reflect a lack of cultivating criticality on my part.

While many people consider me "techy," and I certainly employ lots of rich digital writing spaces in my classes, I wonder if I haven't yet developed the proactive stance that considers writing in multimedia. As Wysocki calls for new media to be opened to writing, I believe this will be an important starting point as I move along and develop as a teacher of writing. I know I bring to digital writing assignments rhetorical questions: how will your readers expect to be able to understand this? What signposts can you provide that will direct them in understanding the richness of your investigation and argument? But a richer articulation of how writing may vary in these as well as traditional spaces. I spend much time helping students recognize that they are already familiar with the conventions, time helping them articulate their meaning within them, but perhaps not enough time bridging the two. If there's anything I know about teaching with technology, it's that there is a ton of trial and error, and a ton of room for growth and development.

I have not, for instance used blogs particularly well by some standards. While I do take the time to comment on students' posts (not all of them, mind you), I do not spend enough time, perhaps, developing a sense of the genre of blogging. I have up til now used blogs as a sort of prewriting space where students can develop ideas in candid ways while having some sense of audience–their classmates, for instance–and getting a sense for the social nature of research and writing. I have seen students integrate thoughts and ideas from their peers' comments in productive ways in their final essays. But I have not taken the time to have students initiate blogs toward their own ends, to do the small, tedious and meticulous efforts it takes to become part of a community of bloggers in a particular area of knowledge making.

In short, Wysocki's calls are well-heard for me, but not yet well-implemented. I think (to pay attention to the institution and particular material circumstances), that part of this has to do with the careful thought it takes to work these issues into a particular curriculum. Yet investigation of critical writing need not be separate from the issues of diversity and difference that many sections of our required composition classes take up: just look at Adam Banks' work for a clear model of how that might be done. It takes time, which as a CCR student I feel is limited, but small potent gestures of critical reflection on the materiality of the writing in my courses will go a long way, and each semester I believe I get a little bit better at helping students to cultivate engagement with text as writing, materiality, genre, and rhetoric.
Despite being here in this program Becky calls home, I haven't put much of my intellectual inquiry time into thought about copyright law/intellectual property. But in "Parsing Codes," Logie's positioning of the historical expansions of copyright law over the last couple of centuries as a particular concern for technical communicators for whom-as we saw last week-writing is often a matter of remixing/textual curation, sets up the topic as something I am instantly more curious about than I've been up til now. Especially of interest to me is the degree to which he traces the extent of parallel between copyright law and technological developments as relates to reproduction and distribution, and memory technologies in different media. 

Looking further into the more frequent and high-impact changes made to copyright law in the digital age, Logie highlights the US's adoption of the European model of not just legal permissions connected to the author's control of a work, but also a moral understanding of textual ownership, which he explains "are grounded in a belief that an artist's act of creation carries with it certain natural rights that typically include exercising a measure of control over a given work even after it has been sold" (230). As Logie then explains four monumental changes in copyright law made since 1997 which have totally changed the landscape of copyright towards serving not the public good, but rather the interests of whoever stands to make money on a particular text, we see the familiar problematic that repeatedly emerges when attempting to balance a positive, protection-of-the-individual perspective with the frequent consequence of the serving of capitalistic interests: the individual corporation (like Sony, for instance), becomes protected, while smaller-sized individuals-to be frank-get screwed. 

Porter, in "The Chilling of Digital Information: Technical Communicators as Public Advocates" nicely follow's Logie's critique with a discussion of ways in which not only the shifting legal landscape, but relatedly the cultural landscape of intellectual property law is having disturbing consequences for the public sphere. Not only is the all-important fair-use doctrine under attack, but the very act of linking which practically defines web writing is also facing attack by (often corporate) authors who wish to prohibit deep-linking which subverts a site's homepage and instead links directly to one of the many pages buried within a site. As Porter describes it, "The AMC citation principle [which views linking as an online version of citation] is based on an academic, gift-exchange model that encourages cross-referencing and acknowledges the interconnectedness and collaborative nature of knowledge. But that philosophy runs counter to an ownership model that attempts to establish clear, unambiguous proprietorship" (251). This made me wonder whether there was perhaps some of this "chilling effect" at work behind MLA's 2009 style changes.

I wondered if the recent decision to no longer include url's in works cited entries for online texts, and to replace the url with the word "Web" was potentially motivated by fear of being labeled, as the DMAC prohibits, a force that helps circumvent copyright law (and thus erode fair use). The MLA handbook, though, presents itself in fairly neutral terms however, explaining that:
In the past, this handbook recommended including URLs of Web sources in works-cited-list entries. Inclusion of URLs has proved to have limited value, however, for they often change, can be specific to a subscriber or a session of use, and can be so long and complex that typing them into a browser is cumbersome and prone to transcription errors. Readers are now more likely to find resources on the Web by searching for titles and authors’ names than by typing URLs. You should include a URL as supplementary information only when the reader probably cannot locate the source without it or when your instructor requires it. If you present a URL, give it immediately following the date of access, a period, and a space.
The rhetoric describing the shift as one that facilitates ease of cross-referencing and research might be disarming, but is not wholly satisfying. Either way, I will keep my ear to the ground as I continue to work in the field, considering what it means, as Porter argues, to be a public advocate for access to information (255).
This week's readings in usability made me think a lot deeper about what's involved in design than any up til this point. As a way to get started, here's danah boyd's opening talk at South by Southwest... (among other interesting things, she refers to FB's Zuckerberg in a crisp and offhanded comment worth smirking along with, lol):

So here boyd describes privacy as a form of control a person has over information-their own information. It never occurred to me before how much control is a part of usability (and privacy by extension). If a user does not have control over the language or iconography of a knowledge space, for instance, then the space will not be usable, and the information not usable. 
Add in a person's already heightened sense of a lack of control, as in over the fate of their child's health in a battle with cancer, and we have an even more highly precarious site of usability, as Kim et al illustrate in "Keeping Users at the Center: Developing a Multimedia Interface for Informed Consent.” The authors add in factors like the problem of coordinating experts' schedules, sharing decision making across unequal power planes, cross-cultural communication, unequal access to or familiarity with the threshold of medical familiarity necessary, and it gets only more and more complex from there. In fact, there is so much out of the designer AND the users' control, it comes to feel sort of miraculous when any sort of communication happens at all. And yet it is here that the user is most important, as they describe: "this article begins from the premise that to place the pediatric patient or parent needs anywhere but at the forefront of the design effort is to dilute the intent of informed consent—to protect patients" (Kim, et al. 336). I've never seen the users' emotions considered before now. 
In "Rethinking Usability for Web 2.0 and Beyond," Wolff, Fitzpatrick, and Youssef ask how the new literacies at work in Web 2.0 have bearing on the ways in which technical communicators are responsible for their content once is is moved into another location by an app like, say, google reader. With these apps, users want to be able to control content. As the authors point out, "Dismissing the applicability of usability because of the supposed goals of the creator is not only condescending but dangerous. It suggests that an agenda grounded in the idea that standards are permanent structures that don’t evolve with the times." In other words, usability test must in this way ALWAYS be user-centered, even when trying to satisfy the goals of a company or organization. The user must perceive herself as having significant enough control over the space to be able to carry out the actions she chooses, and those which the company or organization has some investment in. To meliorate the many conditions affecting any given users' levels of control over a space, knowledge, a task, is ultimately the goal of the designer. (and to throwback to datacloud, this is how flattening has been simultaneously very useful and very frustrating, depending on the user.)

*Title borrowed from a former colleague in my MA institution...

So, right off the bat, I have to say that I'm responding only to the introductory essay in this week's reading:

George Pullman and Baotong Gu. "Guest Editors’ Introduction: Rationalizing and Rhetoricizing Content Management." Technical Communication Quarterly. 17.1 (2008) 1-9.

The authors advocate that we think rhetorically about the CMS, and each essay they've selected to be part of the special issue does that in some way. (They also advocate the need for TCers to be a part of the design process for CMSs, since they're one of the primary groups of end-users...). But I'm going to spend the space of this brief blog interrogating, for myself, the definition of a CMS they offer, compared to several def's of wikis, held up against my own CMS-wiki-google site thing. (With a little workflow analysis thrown in, maybe...). 

Soooo Pullman and Gu define CMSs as:

A content management system, then, is any systematic method designed to organize and distribute information, while content management system software automates the system, typically providing “a platform for managing the creation, review, filing, updating, distribution, and storage of structured and unstructured content” (White, 2002, p. 20). (1)

The purpose of CMS software is to centralize all communications practices, to standardize layout and design, and to increase efficiency when it come to distributing information, ensuring that the company stays on message and does not issue redundant or conflicting statements. In order to achieve this level of control, every piece of information an organization issues has to originate from within the CMS database, and thus everyone writing for the organization has to get used to creating, storing, sharing, and publishing within the system, which means that nearly everyone has to change his or her writing practices to fit inside the CMS’s framework. (2)
And in a recent (Fall 09) Kairos article on teaching with wikis, "Working with Wikis in Writing-Intensive Classes" the authors collected the following definitions of wikis:
“. . . wikis are an ideally designed, open-source space that takes advantage of the messy, dynamic nature of writing” (Garza, Loudermilk, Hern, 2007, emphasis added).

". . . wiki software presents an ideal platform for generating reading and writing assignments that encourage language awareness in the literary domain" (Farabaugh 41, 2007, emphasis added).
I'm not sure that any of these wiki definitions are "agreed upon," or credible-the official word on wikis, but they offer what I feel is a  nice sort of rounding out of the definition of CMS that Pullman and Gu provide- a way to think of CMS's in a more experiential way. In the first wiki def above, the authors, importantly, distinguish wikis as "ideally designed," a characteristic that according to P & G's critique distinguish wiki's from CMSs. They are also free and open source- another bit of salt in the wound for the problems P & G reveal. In this way, wikis have one up on the bulky and expensive content management systems.

But the next definition thinks about wikis from a critical and epistemological standpoint, which P & G advocate for the CMS. So if we think about a space that:
  • is cheap/free
  • is user-centered
  • promotes user work that facilitates literacy-development
  • centralizes communication
  • facilitates collaboration
  • allows for the generation and distribution (before and for production) of information, documents, etc.
we end up with something of a hybrid. My point here is that CMS-style spaces have extended from belonging to the realm of information workers to belonging to all those who work with information. To move to my personal example of this...my google site.

I'm not sure if you can see the features carefully, but let me write a bit about the space and what it allows me to do. First of all, I do not use my gSite on its own- I use Delicious to tag and later locate pages within it, and I'm going to be using Zotero-i think-to keep track of the citations within the site. True to the CMS, there are some standard features-the "notebox" on the left side of the site gives my standard note-taking model-taken from Collin Brooke's advice. Below there I have some important tags that I add to my notes-namely one for my dissertation and one for each of my three exam areas. This standardization allows me to easily maneuver within my own generated content. (The search feature of the site also looks through the text of attached pdfs, which is awesome!)

The site is free. I've built it myself, and changed it's structure and organization many times (though I'm reeeeally happy with my current layout-it might just carry me through). I think it facilitates my literacy development...it's where i draft everything, and post revisions for later reference. I can also post everything in multiple places, and linking is super easy. Collaboration is possible and I use similar sites for that kind of work, though this one is all for me. And, I store information that can be easily repackages, reassessed, rewritten, remade for distribution in different spaces- like the way I'm boutsta repurpose my C & W proposal for this class by reinterpreting it from a techcomm framework. Same general info-different purposes.

I think it's obvious that I have an ecology set up here, and that I'm doing symbolic-analytic work. But I wonder how we are to think about the CMS differently from a wiki... I want to make a big R rhetoric move and say that my computer is an information/knowledge/content management system that has structures I work within and against in order to structure my own knowledge-work and practice. What do you think? Am I over simplifying? In what ways does the CMS work as an apt metaphor for our individual workflows (to build off of Johnson-Eilola)?
Describing recent privacy policy changes, Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder says in an interview:
"A lot of companies would be trapped by the conventions and their legacies of what they've built, doing a privacy change - doing a privacy change for 350 million users is not the kind of thing that a lot of companies would do. But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner's mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it." (qtd. in Kirkpatrick)
He wanted to keep a beginner's mind, a beginner who presumably fits into the social norm of accepting default publicity, searchability. But I wonder who this person is-and to what extent the average user of social media is strong-armed into the narrative of a space? Is the beginner one who is already part of this public-loving cultural trend Zuckerberg claims to reflect? Or is the beginner someone who takes to the default like baby formula-cautiously clinging to their noob-garb, slowly learning the customizations? In which case- how can we lay accountability on the user whose opening experience is determined by the Zuckerberg's of the world who are trying to think like the newbies? Just one example from this week's readings that made me cringe a little as I asked "who the hell are these people?"

The next came from The Rumpus, who offered us an interview with an anonymous Facebook employee. The loose-lipped worker spilled her guts about a master password that once allowed its user to assume the identity of any FB account holder. A few points of interest here:
they don’t give a fuck. Just get your shit done. Hence I was able to ditch work, come have two pitchers with you, and I will literally be able to go back and get my work done. And it goes a long way. Because I know I can get these things done. I know I’m going to have to go back. And I may be there until ten or eleven tonight.
Sweet! Drunken FB employees have access to all my information-everything I've ever said or done or clicked on-at ten at night. But, luckily, she only knows of two instances of people being fired to foul play. Course then there's the users- who is this guy?:
This guy had emailed my friend at school a very very odd message, pertaining to the name ‘Caitlin,’ which is her name, and ‘poop.’ It was literally one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen: a two-page message about the name ‘Caitlin’ and its semantic relation to ‘poop.’ We found out that he had actually sent it to the first two hundred Caitlins he found on Facebook search.
So...we got dudes who are anal retentive about Caitlins (ahahahahaha), drunk employees with unlimited access to our info, and really rich people controlling the situation by trying to think like beginners. Awesome.

I believe Gurak's discussion of bottom-up online rhetorical communities can help us understand something about who these people are and why/how online debates about online privacy are so complicated. In discussing the reaction to Lotus, she writes:
The bottom-up structure of this protest, so conducive to individual participation and open debate, is thus highly susceptible to the intrusion of inaccuracies, which, given the rapidity of online delivery, can easily be compounded with each new posting. (91)
In the case of Lotus I wondered who these people were who just signed petitions and supported causes they didn't really understand. But as Gurak explains it, many people participating in these protests did so on the basis of commitment to the perceived ethos of the group- things circulate quickly, people side with their friends, people get fired up and pass things along with trust... come to think of it I AM that person! I have been known to vote Dem in local categories without really understanding the issues or candidates' platforms. I have supported suggested Facebook causes. I have click "accept" on more terms of service than I can even pretend to have actually read. I'm busy, and I don't feel that that should keep me from being a good citizen, so I rely on what I have come to believe I can trust-the Dems are the good guys (and gals), gay marriage should be legal and if my support of a FB page can help, word, and most web services that aren't porn related will not try to steal all my info or give my computer viruses, right? Hmmm.

I think what this all boils down to for me is that people are just people on both sides of the public/corporate privacy battle, and people are busy, and greedy, and manipulative, and anal retentive, and they like to drink with friends even if it means they have to work late.  So the accountability is just as dispersed and widely distributed and bottom-up and top-down and beginner-oriented and susceptible to intrusion as the networks that Gurak describes.

As a side note-though perhaps the most important point I'm making since above is really just an expression of head-shaking disbelief, I wonder what Gurak's study would look like today with say the comments on Kirkpatrick's blog alone? This is definitely not the only place this conversation is happening, and it seems to be a bottom-up protest all over again. I'm guessing someone has already made a petition using Facebook's causes or fan pages against itself-hell there are like 10 with different names. Is there the same sort of identifiable community ethos thing going on? Wouldn't it be interesting to look at how Gurak's ideas about community are challenged by broader access alone? I wonder if/how a protest against this privacy policy could even be effective now. (Though I remember the users pushed for the overturn of the whole FB owns all original content posts through Notes thing after much outcry from a presumably experienced user-class who know what they can expect as far as their rights to privacy and such go....) K, I'm disgruntled myself now and going to bed. Happy Olympic Gold on home turf, Canada!
My title here encompasses a lot of the themes of what I'd like to talk about- questions raised for me through the readings in Spilka for this week (I haven't gotten to the Milner yet). There's is issue of evolution of technology, the problem of the physical self in relation to its technology, and the larger philosophical understanding of the relationship between technology and the subject.

Splika's introduction prepared me nicely to expect discussions of the rhetoric of technology, information design, and content management, all of which I would agree come up in the four other chapters we read. She suggests that the scholarship in TC must get past the question of field definition and instead begin to justify itself in terms of serving needs of other fields through its own expertise (5). Answering these questions in terms of what the new digitally affected economy is the focus of the collection.

So from Caroliner we get a nice history of how authoring, publishing, and management technologies came about and shifted the job descriptions of TCers (see 46), discussed often in terms of the design/content and theory/praxis binaries. In other words, shifting trends in technological development were accompanied by questions over the role of technical communicators- should they be programmers who can speak to networkers, or writers who can speak to end users? TC was affected largely by what was needed and could be afforded by companies whose objectives and audiences were simultaneously shifting. K. But there wasn't much problematization of technology here, more concern about how it changed the field and what TC needs to do to stay relevant therein-a largely reactionary perspective. Enter Dicks.

Dicks' title seemed to be the next step, claiming what I was looking for in Caroliner:"The Effects of Digital Literacy on the Nature of Technical Communication Work." (BTW- I fully recognize that it's my own interests that lead me to perpetually read things as begging the question, and then being disappointed when they don't.) This article was fun and exciting, and offered the play of social and economic analyses that I think ought to accompany discussions of technology. It also had the enthusiasm I like to see-the speculation about how the things we interact with shape our world and how we shape the world through them. The integration of Web 2.0, symbolic-analytic work, and the support economy seem to support the New London Group's idea of shape-shifting portfolio people who need to explore and build and broadcast their flexibility of talents- something I see as less exploitive than recognizing of the experiential and organic nature of work and working. The symbolic-analytic work idea is a bit vague to me, but either way, the mood in this piece is less than outwardly critical of technology, I would say.

The notion of the support economy and Dicks' description of how it might affect business practices are interesting to think about in terms of digital technologies and technical communication. It may seem romantic on my part, but I love the idea that
organization [will] allow customization of their products and services and, with Web 2.0 and other technologies,  increased customer participation in product development, review, and maintenance. (57)
(I'm not so opposed to the next line either, lol.) Somehow it seems like increased customer participation is more democratic and hence better supports the ideal of freedom. But then there's the notion that customer data mining can do the opposite by allowing greater manipulation of the buyer's consciousness.  If customization merely means better control of a market population, well... Additionally, if the prediction that "technical communicators will be officially unemployed by constantly working"(59), in what ways can we (to anticipate Katz and Rhodes) shift our ethical frames for how we understand what it is to work? Essentially, it seems there are a lot of cool things to look at in these essays, but what concerns me was lurking in the shadows until Clark's investigation into the rhetoric of technology, in which issues of power get mentioned a few times within the descriptions of types of TC scholarship and theory that fall under that category.

Most interesting to me, however, is the dualistic to pluralistic perspectives of the nature of technology implicit in the ethical frames Katz and Rhodes define. The frames seem to elicit anxieties about both technology and theory itself. Their point that we need an ethical frame that matches our current communicative situation is well taken. But in many of the frames they identify, I see an unnecessary flattening of the reality of technology, which I suppose is ultimately their point. They define ethical frames as
a set of philosophical assumptions, ideological perceptions, and normative values underlying and/or guiding how people relate to and exist with technology. (231)
The authors recognize that these frames are socially constructed and dynamic. But the descriptions of the frames seem a bit more "stiff" than need be. Whether a particular manager or the employee handbook's author is the voice driving a particular frame seems to be quite pertinent when a TCer or anyone else is tying to fulfill a particular purpose with technology within a company, and the decisions of the individual actors therein should be taken into account as reflections of the dynamic reality of the ethical frames in practice. It's confusing to me why, for instance, a person would take on a study like Rhodes'.

The authors describe the purpose of the study as an attempt "to capture a more comprehensive picture of employees' email relations through the application of communication theory and rhetorical analysis" (242), though the analysis seeks to explore when and where the ethical frames they described step into the picture. What confuses me, however, is in the "Email as a Tool and an End" section in which the authors use Uncertainty Reduction Theory to assess the ethical frame enacted in the study company's email exchanges. They conclude that "the organization and its employees participate in frames that both regard and utilize email as simply a means to an end-a tool to accomplish work goals (tool frame)" (243).  But what bothers me here is that the theory itself provided the analytic lens that produced those conclusions- they claim under this theory one can see that the participants "simply" see email as a work tool, and yet that's the only result the theory allowed the research to see. They acknowledge this on the next page, arguing that we must use rhetoric to understand more about how technology and the workplace and the social context therein have mutually informed each other.

I guess my point here is that it seems like a lot of work to use narrow communication theory to prove that theories of technology are too narrow. My intent here is not really critique so much as to question how we might see this same problem throughout the articles. In Caroliner, the subject seems to sort of drift from place to place as new technologies emerge- the subject is reactionary to technology. In Dicks, the subject makes and is made and displaced by technology. In Clark, lots of stuff is going on and our theories are plentiful. Katz and Rhodes suggest that we need to catch up, epistemologically, to the realities of technology and interpersonal communication. I see some huge questions here about the nature of the subject in relation to technology, and about the inadequacy of our theories for addressing those questions. There's just a huge array of how to think about what's clearly a huge topic- and I wonder how such a diverse collection of essays indirectly positions the reader to face these questions...