Logo for Pixelated Rhetorics

Calling All Writing Teachers?

By Bill Hart-Davidson

A few weeks ago, I received some e-mail in response to an article I wrote for CMC Magazine called "What's Dis'Course About? Arguing CMC into the Curriculum." The response was from a graduate-level introduction to composition class at Southern Illinois University. Of the many comments, one in particular seemed to articulate a challenge to everyone working in the area of computers and writing. It went something like this:

"This article creates an audience, an exclusive audience of savvy people who understand that technology is inextricably linked to all future human endeavors."

Might the same thing be said for Kairos? I think so...and I think this challenge deserves a response. I tried to offer one (see it below), but it turned out to be too defensive in some spots, too impulsive in others. And so I turn the issue outward, airing it here in the pixelated parlor, where I hope it gets a chorus of responses. The name I use in the message has been changed to preserve the anonymity of the writer.

I agree with this point, though I was writing for the readers of a WWW journal that is explicitly concerned with issues of Computers and Communication. Let me clarify one thing though...I think Susan's last phrase (let me cut and paste it here for effect) "savvy people who understand that technology is inextricably linked to all future human endeavers" is an absolutely great way to describe all writing teachers! Writing teachers are savvy people who understand that a particular technology - writing - is inextricably linked to all future human endeavors. Writing is a complex technology, though, and while we freqently attend to the complexities of the symbol system and conventions that govern the use of writing, writing teachers don't involve themselves too much with the technical processes and artifacts that govern the production of writing. I think we should.

To be more direct, I think teachers of writing should be in on the decision making processes that cause all writing technologies to be designed, produced, used, and changed. Writing teachers should look at Microsoft Word 6.0 and see ways their theories of writing are not represented, they should see ways their theories of writing could improve it, and they should work to make it work better! Writing teachers are the people who directly involve themselves in the struggle to bring about the social condition of literacy. Why shouldn't they be concerned with the way literacy is interpreted in technologies like photocopiers, dry-erase boards, and computers as well as in textbooks, curricula, and social policy?

How do you feel? I'd like to hear your responses. If I have your permission, I will forward your thoughts to the representative of the SIU class who contacted me.

  • Send mail to Bill Hart-Davidson
  • Back to the front of Pixelated Rhetorics
  • See Eric Crump's contribution
  • See Amy Hanson's & Elizabeth Pass' contribution
    Send mail to Bill Hart-Davidson

    KAIROS Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
    Vol. 1 No. 2 Summer 1996