Technocriticism and Techno-Resistance

At the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the presentations about computer-mediated communication in composition instruction ranged from examples of new modes of collaborative writing (e.g. G.20 "The World Wide Web: Transcending Discursive Boundaries") and positive reviews of the ways in which CMC can allow teachers to share their position of authority with students (H.23 "Electrifying Rhetorical Boundaries") to cautionary tales of experiments which did not work as well as expected (E.25 "Speedbumps and Potholes on the Infobahn"; C.26 "Technology in the Classroom: Problems and Possibilities") to dire warnings about the detrimental effects computers can have in composition classes (E.26 "All Is Not Well in Cyberspace"). I think that it is good to critically consider the effects of technology on our pedagogies--perhaps we have reached the point where we, as computers and writing professionals, no longer need to push technology by downplaying any problems or failures while painting a picture of the wonderful student-centered practices that can be enacted only with computers. Still, there was more rhetoric of resistance being propounded at this convention than I would have expected.

Perhaps the most interesting argument I heard this year was Kim Van Alkemade's contention in "Questioning the Humanist Vision of Computer Technology" that the gap between (utopian) expectations and actual results when technology is first put to use in the classroom may be interpreted as a failure of humanism as a critical perspective. She argued that computer technology could not be put to use in the furtherance of a humanist agenda because the technology ultimately increases the distance between genders, socio-economic classes, and races. It was unclear, however, whether she was calling for a reassessment of the humanist agenda or for a removal of technology from the pedagogy of any instructor who claimed to hold such an agenda.

In the same session, Brad Mehlenbacher analyzed the reasons why we technorhetoricians de-emphasize technological problems (in "Transforming Teachers, Not Students, with Emerging Technologies"). He points out that we do this for a variety of reasons, not only to counter resistant arguments such as Van Alkemade's. Here is a sample of his reasons:

Despite the humor with which Mehlenbacher presents his list, there are some truths here, and I think it may well be time that we examine our own reasons for using technology a bit more deeply--at least publicly--than we have in the past.

Expanding Composition Teacher Training for Technology Comparing CMC and TV
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