Those who teach writing, and especially those who administer writing programs, must act in multiple spheres, in relation to many audiences, including higher administration, other faculty, the media, students, and the public more generally (Hesse 2002, p. 42). These audiences often expect an oversimplified, even remedial, skills-based approach to writing instruction (Howard 2003; Merrill and Miller 2002; Rhodes 2000), an approach that fits comfortably with the long and reductionist tradition of current-traditional rhetoric (Crowley 1990). This expectation disadvantages compositionists, as they must constantly articulate their own research- and disciplinary-based understanding of their purpose within robust rhetorical situations.
In this web article, we discuss one powerful way that writing program administrators (WPAs) can start to reshape their basic rhetorical situation, potentially shifting the underlying premises that external audiences bring to discussions about writing instruction. We argue that digital video, when used strategically, is a particularly valuable medium for communicating how writing courses promote student learning. When digital video becomes an integral part of a writing program's routine practice, it creates an opening for more broadly revising institutional practices that impact writing instruction (such as policy-making, funding allocations, etc.). This is because digital video can circulate readily beyond its original context to represent the mission of writing programs to multiple audiences. In turn, each of these audiences will more likely deliberate about the value of the work of writing programs based on their awareness of the program's widely disseminated self-representation. Additionally, because digital video can have more emotional impact than purely word-based texts (Howard 2003), it creates new possibilities for identification and re-articulation. We argue that with the advantages offered by digital video, WPAs can multiply opportunities to shift and re-articulate the terms of institutional engagement about the value of writing instruction, while at the same time contributing to successful program operation.
The linear route through this article (using the "next" links) begins with an overview of what WPAs stand to gain by engaging in articulation practices. Drawing on the work of Stuart Hall (1985), we explain briefly what we mean by articulation. Next, we discuss why digital video can be a particularly effective media for strategic re-articulation. Finally, moving from theory to practice, we exemplify strategic articulation within two particular contexts: The University of Arizona Writing Program and The Southern Arizona Writing Project. Through considering these two cases, we highlight digital video-based rhetorical strategies that have the potential to help other WPAs articulate their goals within their own local contexts.