CCCC 2001 in Review: J.3 Implications of Post-Process Theory for Computer-Mediated Communication and Pedagogy

Chair: Clay Spinuzzi

Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch presented "Beyond Process in Computer-Assisted Instruction: Online Discourse as 'Abnormal Discourse.'"

Breuch problematized Post-Process theory as defining itself by what it is not (process), as well as using Gary A. Olson's and Thomas Kent's complaint that process scholars attempt to systematize something that is not understood well as a system. Breuch asserted that the three major assumptions of Post-Process Theory (writing acts are public, hermeneutic, and not reduced to generalizable processes) have not been articulated well enough. Post-Proces theory reminds us to focus more attention on the dialogic communication between teachers and students. Writing Centers, Breuch declared, are the "poster child" of Post-Process theory. The presenter used overheads and quoted Eric Crump in "At Home in the MUD: Writing Centers learn to Wallow" in High Wired. Crump believes that as "writing begins to assume the shape of new technologies, dialogic forms will begin to displace monologic forms that thrived in print." Breuch explained that Post-Proces theory does not easily create Post-Process pedagogy, and further problematized the use of online interaction as part of the pedagogy because online interaction is still largely optional in the field. What does the "post" in Post-Process theory really stand for? Breuch's answer is that Post-Process theory may not translate into content, but it does make us pay attention to the ways we interact with students and how we create those ways.

Mark Zachary presented "Post-Process Theory and Online Pedagogy."

Although categorized as "Practices of Teaching Writing" Zachary began his presentation claiming it's about "anti practice" in teaching. He focused on impractical teaching practices. Zachary stressed (based on thinking by Thomas Kent) that writing is not centered in the process but in the communication and considers that students will focus on language use as the content to be communicated. Zachary claimed that "Genre and convention speed up the processes of communicative interaction" but don't solve the communication problem. Zachary thinks that students expect to learn genre and convention but also need to learn new ways to gather information and represent information in texts, as well as learning how limited the knowledge (i.e. academic discourse) really is. "Learning a literacy that exceeds the codifiable, is not something that would be immediately valued by students" but that is the learning Zachary emphasized. The presenter believes that students need to learn new genres to demonstrate that they learn new "tasks," and they need to communicate beyond a standard genre's framework. Zachary emphasizes that working online creates "informal textual expressions-unbound by genre and conventions-about knowledge being created in the class creates a space in which ideas are: unstable, refutable, open and reopened to interpretation, and always communitarian (external)."

Clay Spinuzzi presented "Post-Process Theory and Programming Toward a Hermenutic Understanding of Programming Languages."

Spinuzzi used ideas from Thomas Kents about Paralogic (beyond system) Rhetoric and contrasted that with the highly systemized language of programming code. Although computers don't interpret code, programmers do. Spinuzzi saw startling parallels rather than obvious differences. Spinuzzi used Kent to point out that communication is ultimately hermeneutic guess work and linked that point to Reuven Brooks's ideas about programming as a "recursive refining of hypotheses." Next, S;pinuzzi used David Russell's idea that in order to communicate, we need to triangulate, and linked that notion to Brooks' idea that constructing domain and hardware information also involves triangulation. Finally, to flesh out "hermeneutic guessing," Kent focuses on genre and Spinuzzi stressed that genre presents a starting point for refining hermeneutic guesses. Next, Spinuzzi explained that Brooks' ideas about "beacons" which are used to help programmers develop combinations that refine their guess about how the program meets their overall goals. Programming, Spinuzzi concluded, provides an interesting "test bed" for Kent's notions about Paralogic Rhetoric. [WH]

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