map :: introduction :: core text :: authors :: what is CHAT? :: references


re-situating and re-mediating the canons:

a cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity

a collaborative core text


Paul Prior :: Janine Solberg :: Patrick Berry :: Hannah Bellwoar :: Bill Chewning :: Karen J. Lunsford :: Liz Rohan :: Kevin Roozen :: Mary P. Sheridan-Rabideau :: Jody Shipka :: Derek Van Ittersum :: Joyce Walker

An earlier version of this argument was presented February 6, 2005 by Paul Prior in a plenary talk at the Santa Barbara Conference, Writing Research in the Making.


Delivery problems

Re-mediating and
re-distributing delivery

The rhetorical scene

Take 1: Revising the canons

Society and socialization

Take 2: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity

Mapping literate activity

Using CHAT to form new canons

From the core text to the data nodes



From the core text to the data nodes

The individual data nodes we have arrayed around our core text are not intended to rehearse our analysis of the limits of the classical canons. Nor do they systematically unpack specific terms of the cultural-historical remapping we have proposed. Instead, they represent a collage of images of literate and rhetorical activity that we have developed (individually and jointly) in our studies. Through these nodes, we present some of the spaces and paths this new mapping makes more visible and navigable. In them, we enact the kind of attention to materiality and mediation that Anne Wysocki (2004) sees as the defining feature of new media texts. In content and form, the data nodes illustrate the value of a cultural-historical remapping that can follow rhetorical activity wherever it goes and however it is conveyed.

The data nodes focus on complex rhetorical remediations and trajectories. In a feminist web installation, Hannah Bellwoar, for example, explores the literate and multimodal character of healing/medicine as she remediates academic theory, a personal narrative of her own medical experiences and records, and a series of audio reflections on the relationship among academic, medical, and personal discourses. Patrick Berry traces how multiple modalities and contexts intersect, overlap, and echo one another around uptakes of Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion tale of the linguistic and social remediation of a London flower girl. Tracing a series of diversely mediated recontextualizations of the rhetorical, material, affective, and interpersonal strategies that a first-year composition student employed for an in-class activity called “Music Day,” Jody Shipka and Bill Chewning present five distinctly different, but decidedly interrelated, remediations of a composing process narrative that Shipka collected in a research interview.

The data nodes also highlight socialization—the production of people in practice. Foregrounding the profoundly laminated nature of identity, Kevin Roozen, for example, examines dialogic relations among a college student's literate engagement as a mathematics major, a member of a sketch comedy troupe, and a developer of a new online role-playing game. Karen Lunsford examines how the digital remediation of copyright, peer review, and scientific transparency reshapes the experiences and stances of a scientist-editor. Remediating a sampling of early 20th century career advice/training texts and films aimed at women office workers, Janine Solberg explores socialization as distributed work, mediated by texts and by the cultural/material channels through which those texts circulate.

The data nodes pay close attention to the rhetorical affordances of materiality and mediation. Liz Rohan, for example, examines the ways a form of ordinary writing, "venting" (writing graffiti on air vents) in the library stacks at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, can be understood as a system in which writers, readers, technologies and ecologies act collectively and in a nonlinear fashion to produce meaning, in this case to forge a collective memory of college life. Analyzing the situated practices of revision and redesign of a virtual art object, Paul Prior presents mediational means (screens, programs, drawings, gestures) not simply as means of delivery, but as tools of production, forms of representation, key vectors of distribution, and sites of reception.

Finally, the data nodes suggest that a cultural-historical remapping resonates with the complex, but everyday rhetorical challenges people face. Mary Sheridan-Rabideau, for example, considers the rhetorical tasks a new community arts organization, Artists Now, faces as it seeks to put up a billboard, tasks that go well beyond inventing text/image and delivering it on a space, tasks that must navigate diverse material conditions and the pivotal role of forces and contexts well removed from any "moment" of reading/writing/creating/designing. Offering a close examination of writers engaged in memory work with digital tools, Derek Van Ittersum argues that, while the rhetorical canon of memory continues to provide insight into memory work (such as the power of images and place memory) and the generative aspects of memory, cultural-historical activity theory is better able to account for permutations introduced by new artifacts (such as databases), new practices (such as those afforded by digital tools), and the interplay between functional systems and specific instances of literate activity. Joyce Walker narrates a story about a group of students who decided (for a multimodal class assignment) to give textual voice to trees on campus that were designated for removal; Walker argues that CHAT assists her in (re)fashioning both practices of, and rationales for, a first-year composition course that emphasizes research, multimodal materialities, and an expansive awareness of rhetorical activity.

These data nodes reflect our diverse interests, settings, subjects, practices, and materialities, but individually and jointly, through analyses and enactments, they have sharpened our awareness of the disjunctions between the rhetorical activities they trace and the spaces and tools offered by the classical canons. Working with these images of rhetorical activity has led us to argue for this cultural-historical remapping of the canons.