Review of _Writing and the Digital Generation_










IV. Teaching in the Digital Generation


This brief final section turns the conversation toward teaching, but certainly not just in a formal, institutional sense. In fact the section opens with an essay that investigates teaching and learning in the context of an online fan fiction forum for fans of a pair of characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In “Encouraging Feedback: Responding to Fan Fiction at Different Colored Pens,” Juli Parrish analyzes how fans negotiate a critical rhetoric of their own as they post and respond to one another’s fanfic. Importantly, Parrish focuses on how the participants actively seeks to avoid association with any parallel academic discourse, and yet they engage in many of the same techniques that are encouraged in the composition classroom (modeling good practice, balancing criticism with praise, presenting criticism through questions, etc.). Though seemingly far (and intentionally) removed from the academy proper, the forum serves to exemplify one aspect of fan behavior that may have promising implications for praxis in the writing classroom.

Meanwhile, in “MetaSpace: Meatspace and Blogging Intersect,” Elizabeth Kleinfeld tracks her own digital blogging “habits” in an attempt to underscore the possibilities of these activities on effective digital writing pedagogy. Tracing the contradictions and interactions of work and play in a variety of blog memes, Kleinfeld suggests that effective digital writing instruction moves beyond simply translating old practices into the new media and instead actively interrogates the intersection of writing and digital culture.

The final essay in this section, “Meeting the Digital Generation in the Classroom: A Reflection on the Obstacles,” offers perhaps the coda for the entire collection (even though it is physically followed by two profiles). Heather Urbanski’s essay acts as both centerpiece and conclusion to the book’s essays and profiles by illuminating both the existing and potential synergy of writing and new media. Her tone, however, is by no means idealistic, and she is careful to explicate the tensions and difficulties she herself has encountered in her advocacy of this new order. While acknowledging the roots of both nostalgia and technical apprehension as obstacles to development and acceptance of both a pedagogy and a rhetoric of new media, she insists that such hurdles can and should be surmounted to move writing discourse forward productively. She charges that balance will be key to this conquest, that finding some equilibrium will be key to moving the conversation forward:

I am trying to cogently articulate my discomfort with the persistent, pervasive efforts at devaluation within the academic point of view. It isn’t that “anything goes”; I’m not advocating for an unfiltered, all-encompassing relativity that forbids cultural, aesthetic, or even literary judgments of any kind. Rather, I am expressing my increasing concern that they ways in which we express those judgments too often resort to bullying, to declaring texts, theories, and even scholars, to be the “other” so that we can demonstrate our insider status, to prove our worth, our membership status in the academic world. (p. 249)

Although her stratification of these camps may be a bit heavy-handed, her point is well-taken. Urbanski reminds us of how far we still must go to raise the authoritative profile of this conversation in many academic circles, and she therefore calls for a nuanced, theoretically-developed discourse of participatory media that is both credible and credited within the academy.


Although the section contains only two profiles, both bring unique and valuable insights into the actual work of integrating these theories into classroom practice. In “Making Dorothy Parker My MySpace Friend: A Classroom Application for Social Networks,” Ashley Andrews showcases her use of MySpace in her American literature classroom. Andrews explains how she uses the platform to create mock-profiles of literary figures, a technique that seeks to help students better understand the contexts and characters of the period pieces they study throughout the term. In “Novel Cartographies, New Correspondences,” Jentry Sayers advocates for the innovative multimodal composition through the use of the “geo-blog.” Using geo-tagging, students engage in a discourse developed around physical spaces, so they then compose with an eye for spaces both real and virtual. Both profiles, then, insightfully outline the production of mindful, applicable digital writing pedagogy.


Urbanski Book Cover

Writing and
the Digital Generation:
Essays on New Media Rhetoric

Edited by
Heather Urbanski

Copyright 2010
ISBN 978-0-7864-3720-7

Find out more at: McFarland Publishing