Technological Ecologies and Sustainability: A Review (Chapters)

DeVoss, Dànielle N., Heidi A. McKee, and Richard (Dickie) Selfe, eds. Technological Ecologies and Sustainability. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital P/Utah State UP, 2009. Computers and Composition Digital Press. Web. http://ccdigitalpress.org/ebooks-and-projects/tes

With eighteen chapters, a blow by blow account of each would lead to the longest review ever and I suspect, one that few would completely read. This post will highlight two chapters and those interested in a more exhaustive summary can use the very good abstract and keywords pages that begin each chapter.

Within the four broad areas that organize the book (Sustaining Instructors, Students, and Classroom Practices; Sustaining Writing Programs; Sustaining Writing Center, Research Centers, and Community Programs; and Sustaining Scholarship and the Environment), I was especially interested in chapters that not only realistically described current situations, but that took a practical stance and sought ways that all involved in creating sustainable technological ecologies could use to work together and attempt to understand each others goals. “Video for the Rest of Us? Toward Sustainable Processes for Incorporating Video into Multimedia Composition” by Peter J. Fadde and Patricia Sullivan. rightly positions video as powerful and empowering, a medium that theoretically is available for all, but not necessarily one that all use well. Even though some will enter new media and composition classrooms with the technical skill to create video, they do not necessarily know the rhetoric–visual, aural, and textual–that makes the message effective and compelling, and a message there is, even with the most mundane choices. That is one area of tension. Another is how, once found, to keep the equipment and software needed to produce video, equipment that may exist on campus, but is not always intended for composition or even technical communication classes, an issue addressed well in “The Administrator as Technorhetorician: Sustainable Technological Ecologies in Writing Programs” by Michael Day, which gives a WPA viewpoint that doesn’t elide the complexities. I especially like the way he contextualizes the WPA role;

 Amid such competing internal and external pressures, because of their role as managers, mentors, mediators, and innovators, academic program administrators need to develop a flexible philosophy that will allow them to negotiate an effective and sustainable role for technology in the curriculum they support. One way of thinking about administrative philosophies in negotiating technology decisions is to consider the administrator as a technorhetorician—that is, as an administrator who understands and has experience in technology, including the rhetoric of technology, and uses that knowledge for the benefit of as many of the program’s stakeholders as possible. In using technorhetorician here, I amborrowing a term that has been widely used in computers and writing discussions to refer to computer and Internet-using teachers of composition and rhetoric. (132

 In the best sense of the word, instructors and students need to be sustained; they need the assurance that they will  have the tools to do the job and that they won’t have to start again from scratch each semester. As Fadde and Sullivan point out, “students, practitioners, and teachers” need ways to “best take advantage of the rhetorical attributes of video, without having to master a full technological and disciplinary skill set” (92). In their chapter, Fadde and Sullivan “propose that a tried-and-true video technique, repurposing, used in an accessible multimedia platform (Microsoft PowerPoint), helps make video possible in the arena of multimedia composition” (92). I like the repurposing idea for PowerPoint (or Keynote or Impress), having first encountered it in a 2005 NCTE panel and since then used it in my honors poetry class. Fadde and Sullivan continue that idea of “video for the rest of us” (90) and their recommendation of “a focus on repurposing existing video” (96) with the following rubric:

  •  Ideate: Students explore ideas for the project and complete a preliminary writing task such as a storyboard or a script.
  • Locate: Students search for video clips appropriate for the chosen theme and audience.
  • Evaluate: Students evaluate the video clips they have gathered for their ethical, rhetorical, aesthetic, and technical suitability for their projects.
  • Integrate: Students insert video into their multimedia composition in rhetorically, ethically, aesthetically, and technically sound ways.  (96-97)

By breaking the process down into manageable, conceptual “bits,” the authors manage the complexity and make an admittedly high-maintenance medium more likely to be a sustainable practice for composition classes.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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