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


map button

Mapping literate activity

The terms of the map of literate activity (production, representation, distribution, reception, socialization, activity, and ecology) are not intended to evoke a series of steps, but to signal a multidimensional model, like Jakobson's (1990) model of language functions.

Production directs our attention to the tools, practices, and contexts that shape the formation of a text (or series of texts) as well as to the series of texts and artifacts produced. It merges individual and collective invention with the mediated force of technologies, genres, discourses, and practices.

involves the way a discourse is entextualized in talk, text, and mind. Representation highlights semiotic codes, discourses, genres (as representational artifacts). We're thinking here of Hutchins' (1995a) notion of distributed cognition as the “propagation of representational states across media” (p. 118), with media including the human mind and body. Representation collapses style and arrangement, but also expands them to encompass the full range of semiotic media and means found in representational artifacts of all kinds (material, machinic, biologic).

involves the way particular media, technologies, and social practices disseminate a text and what a particular network signifies. It's important to stress that even a person sitting alone writing on a piece of paper that is read only by herself is displaying a type of distribution.

is actual reading/viewing/hearing and response, how meaning is made under what conditions and for what ends. It is a mental and social activity. Reception can be, and often is, actively shaped by writers or distributors.

is the making of people and the making of society in concrete history. As individuals engage in cultural practices, they are involved in apprenticeship, learning, and development. As situated engagement in cultural practices unfolds, society is (re)produced, that is, transmitted and transformed in activity.

points to the more or less durable, goal-oriented, motivated projects that lead people to cooperation, indifference, and conflict. Cultural-historical activity theories appear to offer richer ways to investigate and define rhetorical situations.

points to the biotic and natural world, which enables and constrains all the previous functions and which may also be a domain of rhetorical action. Bazerman (1988) noted the ways scientists must deal with the responses not only of other scientists and publics, but also of the material world. And Monsanto certainly recognizes that the debate over genetically modified (GM) plants will be settled when all plants have GM DNA, a condition we are fast approaching in the case of corn and soybeans.

You may have noticed that mediation is not on this list. What happened to it? In fact, we did not drop it. From a cultural-historical perspective and adopting James Wertsch's (1991) terms, we take mediated activity and mediated agency as fundamental units of analysis. In those terms, everything in the three maps (literate activity, functional systems, and chronotopes) is about mediation.