Michael Spooner

Like several other respondents, Michael Spooner’s response was riddled with ambivalance. Although others in this section articulate their ambivalence (Monroe, Muhlhauser, and Poe), Spooner was the only respondent who used the word "ambivalence.”


"I’m no curmudgeon or Luddite but at the present, I find myself full of tech ambivalence."


He more fully explains his ambivalence:


"In 1966, as a twelve-year-old, I pedaled my one-speed bike four miles from my family’s shack in the woods to the general store at Fox, Alaska, where I used the hand crank telephone to call my mother’s office in Fairbanks. Today, from my own office . . . well, what you said about "this in-touch world."


Therefore, one thing I deeply appreciate about communication tech of the sort you describe is that it can draw us together. It is not inevitably isolating, alienating, and destructive, as was so much the case with the hyper-consumptive technology of the late industrial age, with its refineries, automobiles, interstates, malls, and suburbs.


But I cannot shake the feeling that our biggest contribution and most urgent challenge, if we’re citizens of conscience in the current era, will be to speak to the continuing need to balance the thrill of technology against the damage it enables environmentally, socially, and economically around the world. We need to encourage applications like Internet phones and video-conferencing, and at the same time discourage the exploitation of tech’s dark side, from Viagra spam and spyware to unmanned assault drones—which are now delivering the American religion throughout our global empire."



In Critical Theory of Technology, Andrew Feenberg (1991) asserted that

technology is not a thing in the ordinary sense of the term, but an 'ambivalent' process of development suspended between different possibilities. This ‘ambivalence' of technology is distinguished from neutrality by the role it attributes to social values in the design, and not merely the use, of technical systems. On this view, technology is not a destiny but a scene of struggle. (p. 14)

Few real Luddites exist; mixed and contradictory ideas and feelings proliferate. As Feenberg noted, technology and attitudes toward it vacillate; there is not "destiny," but "struggle" (p. 14).


Another respondent, Asao Inoue, asked, "Is this what [Patty's] story is about, technology as the nexus of change that signals 'being nowhere'? And another equation comes to mind: The absence of technology = being nowhere." This equation makes us consider the complications of being in the "middle of nowhere.” If we are at a remote site in Alaska but can connect to the Internet, to Facebook, to Skype, then does our personal (and societal) sense of "nowhere” change? Asao’s question echoes our own, "As your account suggests in several ways, how is the idea, and material realities, of change imbricated in technology, just as it is in the recognition of having been in the middle of nowhere once (but not any more)?”  



The ambivalence that Spooner, Feenberg, and Inoue voice is not strange to those who compose and teach composing. As Dennis Baron (2009) pointed out, the relationship of writers to their technologies has consistently been one of ambivalence. Baron’s history of writing tools and our relationships with them considers "how we love, fear, and actually use our writing machines” (p. x). Like Feenberg, Baron believes that changes in writing technologies have been (and continue to be) a site of contest and change: "Literacy technologies provoke cycles of new practices accompanied by new complaints” (p. 163). Composition teachers are at the nexus of this change; as some push forward enthusiastically, others drag their feet. But as Baron concluded, we’re simply in the "next stage, not the last stage, in the saga of human communication” (p. 246).


Digital writing machines have upended things. Some may believe that the proliferation of writing tools has put writing (and even authorship) in the hands of the barbarians. The abbreviations, misspellings, and condensed syntax of text messaging may seep into essays, threatening, some say, the beauty, accuracy, and clarity of English compositions. But rarely do you hear a parent complaining about the way a text message from a child is written. Parents are happy to be in touch; thrilled to know that "AAS BBS LUV U” and may even attempt (usually to their childrens’ considerable entertainment) to emulate the world of text messaging. Children may also adapt to their parents’ lack of text messaging skill and take the time to write "Alive and smiling Be back soon Love you,” thus implementing their knowledge of audience, their rhetorical savvy, to communicate with an audience with different literacy skills.


In addition to concerns about how our writing machines might change the way we write, our respondents write about the impacts of communication technologies on space and place. Book-length considerations of space and place in composition studies are few [e. g. Christopher Keller & Christain Weisser (2007), Derek Owens (2001)]. More articles have taken up this topic including Deborah Mutnick’s (2006) article in which she argued "The primary experience of home situates us in a particular place in relation to particular others whose words and values interact in a complex process of identification to construct ideological and discursive realities” (p. 45). This claim seems well-established in composition studies. Mutnick’s elaboration of this claim, supports our position,

Especially in an age of "time-space compression” in which the conquest of space by time threatens to annihilate not only a sense of distance but also of place, with all its concrete, sensual associations, we would do well to respect the power of narrative, memory, and identity. (p. 45)

Another scholar calls for memoria to bridge the gaps in our pedagogy. We reiterate Victor Villanueva’s (2004) exhortation, "Memoria is a friend of ours. We must invite her into our classroom and into our scholarship” (p. 19).  Our Pedagogy of Techno-memoria does just that.