The WAC Clearinghouse

Reviewing CW2K: I6 Composing Technologies, or Composing Technology

  • "Digital Labor: A Labor of Love?' Michelle Glaros, Dakota State University
  • "Computer Co-Authors For Fiction" Nicholas Montfort, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab
  • "An Apologia for Presentation Software as Composing Tool with a Caution Added" Tim McGee, College of New Jersey
  • "Media, Technology, and Rhetorical Delivery" Gary Hatch, Brigham Young University

This was a "grab-bag" session, offering four presentations with seemingly nothing in common to begin with but ultimately coalescing into a thoughtful set of commentaries on the meeting between writing/thinking and machine.

To start us off, Michelle Glaros wisely drew our attention to the importance of having students not just develop the skills necessary to compete successfully in the job market, but of creating pedagogies in which students are prompted and encouraged to think critically about the markets into which they are entering to make a living. She pointed out that this should especially apply to students seeking employment in technology-related fields, as the "myths" about job opportunities in those fields often occlude thinking critically about labor conditions and issues of equity in those fields.

Then, Nick Montfort unveiled for us an interactive text-based, computer program, "Winchester's Nightmare," in which the human player and the computer program "co-author" a story about a woman trying to understand her madness. The piece, which Montfort wrote and programmed, moves the "player" further along the path of actually co-writing a piece with a computer as opposed to playing a computer game in which a "user" is simply prompted to fill in the "write" blanks; Montfort's piece, in offering the human player multiple narrative options and possibilities, moves the player away from "puzzle-solving" and towards actually co-authoring a piece interactively with a sophisticated computer program.

Using a very cogent PowerPoint presentation, Tim McGee demonstrated both the power and the problem of using PowerPoint as a teaching and writing tool. Specifically, he suggested that PowerPoint can help students organize their thoughts, expositions, and arguments. As such, PowerPoint can serve useful pedagogical purposes. However, he warns against students using more recent features of PowerPoint, such as templates that provide organization strategies and ideas for development, as these may be counter-productive to having students learn processes of developing and organizing their own ideas.

Gary Hatch's very coherent presentation served as a nice "cap" to this session in that he urged the audience to think more about how the study of technology is intimately tied to the study of rhetoric. Tying together theories of technology with ideas about rhetorical delivery, Hatch demonstrated how "technology" is, in theory, at the heart of most every rhetorical situation, and that a consideration of technological mediation must inform an understanding of rhetoric in general. And thus both panelists and audience could see the linkages between the seemingly disparate presenters: technology composes and we compose with technology, and, after a point, it becomes difficult to see where the technology ends and the composing begins-or vice versa!

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