The second major brand of instrumentalism is organizational or institutional instrumentalism. Here again the instrument is applied and an effect is produced but this time within a particular organizational or institutional context such as a bank, for example, or a classroom. One example of this kind of instrumentalism is the collection of essays, Computers and Community: Teaching Composition in the Twenty-First Century (1990), edited by Carolyn Handa. The book as a whole is flushed with the early promise of networked classrooms and is persuasive as a reminder both of the need for a new way of doing business in the composition classroom and of the potential of networking.
The essays range from theoretical examinations of the role networks in traditional pedagogy to practical consideration of the arrangement of terminals in a networked classroom, and achieve a fine balance between optimism and skepticism. What is missing however is any discussion of the connection between the classroom and what goes on outside it. Even an essay by Cynthia Selfe which sets out to discuss the impact of feminist theory, is really just a call for a more theoretical approach in general that will bring together the series of isolated experiments currently under way.
As befits composition instructors, and in common with other organizational instrumentalist approaches, the teachers in Computers and Community offer a detailed investigation of individual interactions with technology in the form of their own experiences and those of their students. But while the various authors provide a lot of evidence concerning the way in which student writing changes upon the application of technology, there are few attempts to define the overall purpose of the networked classroom, what it is that is supposed to be achieved by students learning to write in this way, or any other way for that matter.
This is in turn part and parcel of an overall weakness of the collection: for a book that professes to be about community the definitions of community are perilously vague. Where they do appear they are disturbingly simplistic: community in and of itself is unproblematically considered a good thing. The instructors are concerned with trying to get away from a model of composition based on an individualism nurtured by an authoritarian teacher-centered classroom; they conveniently ignore, however, the fact that many communities are themselves authoritarian and repressive of creativity; communities organized around the maintenance of external boundaries through sectarian or ethnic orthodoxy (the conflict in the Balkans) or the maintenance of internal cohesion through ideological orthodoxy (communities organized around fundamentalist Christianity, for example).xx