How do people become writers over time, and how writing is situated within identity construction? In this case study, Compton-Lily follows Peter, an emerging African American writer from a low-income community from first-grade to high school. Compton-Lilly collected data from interviews, field notes, and writing samples while Peter was in 1stgrade, 5th grade, 8th grade, and 11th grade. She then coded data from each data collection, identifying salient categories of information, and then coding data from the first and third collections into grounded categories organized by contrastive analysis. As Compton-Lilly considered the patterns, she was led to Bordieu’s notion of habitus, which emphasizes the identity dispositions people create over periods of time, and from which she develops the concept of a writing habitus. She found that Peter’s writing habitus consisted of four developed dispositions: meeting school expectations for reading and writing, being a good student, forming friendships and affiliations that involved reading and writing practices, and future goals that related to writing. Becoming a writer cannot just be about learning thesis statements or grammar, but is also related to dispositions which focus on individual purpose and social belonging. Social affiliation should be fostered inside the classroom and promoted outside the classroom.
Compton-Lilly, C. (2014). The development of writing habitus: A ten-year case study of a young writer. Written Communication, 31, 371-403.
At the beginning of this short book, Ginzburg says that he wants to know what history, rhetoric, and proof have in common. He says that history and rhetoric obviously have something in common, but what about proof? That seems to be the unlikely term. Yet, Ginzburg demonstrates that proof used to have something to do with both rhetoric and history—it was central—and that fact reveals the methodology of historians. Rhetoric is therefore naturally the term between history and proof.
One example of this appears in Chapter 1, when Ginzburg states that Aristotle’s Poetics and the Rhetoric reveal how history, proof, and rhetoric were closely connected with one another.
Ginzburg’s book includes the following chapters:
1. Aristotle and History, Once More
2. Lorenzo Valla on the “Donation of Constantine”
3. AlienVoices: The Dialog Element in Early Modern Jesuit Historiography
4. Reflections on a Blank
Carlos Ginzburg. Rhetoric, History, and Proof. Hanover and London: Brandeis University Press, 1999.
Michael J. Salvo writes that in technical communication, there has been a shift of observing users to participating with them. This article investigates 3 examples of participatory design: Pelle Ehn’s participatory design method, Roger Whitehouse’s design of tactile signage for blind users, and the design of an online writing program.
“Participatory design” is better than “user-centered design” because “participatory design” is more dialogic, which means it’s more focused on the relationship between designer and user instead of just the user (or just the designer). [But why is this article subtitled “User-Centered Design”?]
Some key terms in this article are as follows:
- Democratic workplace
- Two-way communication
Dialogic ethics, a two-way way of thinking, comes from Martin Buber’s book, I and Thou, in which Buber denounces the objectification of the human. When we treat one another as means, he says, we create an I-to-it relationship, whereas when we treat one another as ends, we create an I-to-you relationship, or an I-Thou relationship. We should always treat one another as human beings, and that is a dialogic relationship. Salvo writes, “When one engages another person as an individual, as a person, one recognizes the humanity of the other. This recognition makes it possible to know the other’s needs, which is the point of participatory design: to know from the other’s perspective what is needed to improve the usability of the design” (276).
Mikhail Bakhtin is interested in this concept, too, from a linguistic standpoint. And where Bakhtin is in linguistics, Emmanuel Levinas (Buber’s student) is concerned with identity when he says that the ethical self is one’s ability to see the humanity in others. One should see the self in the other and the other in the self. [That reminds me of Burke’s “Four Master Tropes,” as well as Robert Solomon’s philosophical work about human emotion emotions.]
When we author actions, we become responsible for them (276). Participatory design is to know the other’s needs and to see from their perspective.
[Note here the great irony of a poorly written article or book: it assumes authority by virtue of being written, but if it is poorly written, then it contradicts itself! That’s was the irony that Plato called attention to when he was writing in the Phaedrus!]
Dialogic ethics thus becomes a counter-statement to Katz’s ethic of expediency. In short, a dialogue is listening and speaking. Both. Not just one. For all participants. Design should work the same way. Thus, users ultimately should have a hand in design (288).
[I wonder if the amount of listening which needs to be done is proportional to a person’s ultimate ethos. Listening is receiving and learning. Speaking is teaching and presenting and showing. Speaking is promoting something.
There are times when we should listen more than we speak and other times when we should speak more than we listen. It depends on the situation, but the bottom line here is that we treat others as agents and not objects. What if others are treating us as objects? Then what? Then we have a duty to treat ourselves as an agent and get out of there. Also, we shouldn’t unduly silence ourselves as long as we say what is good.]
From Michael J. Salvo, “Ethics of Engagement: User‐Centered Design and Rhetorical Methodology,” Technical Communication Quarterly 10.3 (2001): 273‐290.
Teaching writing and rhetoric is teaching a certain kind of ideology. “Ideology is . . . inscribed in language practices, entering all features of our experience” (669, I’m using Susan Miller’s edited collection, The Norton Book of Composition Studies, 2009). How and what we teach makes assumptions that we can’t get away from, and each of the following 3 ways of teaching promotes a different ideology: cognitive rhetoric, expressionistic rhetoric, and social-epistemic rhetoric.
Cognitive rhetoric, which might be the continuation of current-traditional rhetoric, claims to be scientific. It has been based on psychology and emphasizes the real and the rational. Berlin cites Flower and Hayes as an example and states that this rhetoric “refuses the ideological question” because of its basis on science (671-672). I think Berlin also say that it is to some degree capitalistic.
Expressionistic rhetoric emphasizes the speaker and is therefore elitist. In this section, Berlin cites Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Jung. Thus, power lies in the individual. He then cites Peter Elbow and Donald Murray. Expressionistic rhetoric emphasizes talk about “Me.” Expressionistic is a response to and critique of capitalism and scientism, though the agencies of corporate capitalism easily use this one to their advantage, too.
Social-epistemic Rhetoric is the last one discussed in this essay, and Berlin cites Kenneth Burke as an example. From this perspective, the real is a relationshipbetween people, but that doesn’t make everything relative. We make our own histories. Berlin then cites Ira Shor and Karl Marx.
In conclusion, I’d like to cite two of what I think are Berlin’s most important statements. First, “[A] way of teaching is never innocent. Every pedagogy is imbricated in ideology, in a set of tacit assumptions about what is real, what is good, what is possible, and how power ought to be distributed” (682).
Finally, “A rhetoric cannot escape the ideological question, and to ignore this is to fail our responsibilities as teachers and as citizens” (682).
[When I read all this, it seems to me that if Berlin is correct, then we could take his logic forward and assume that, to some degree, every action is also an argument and every way of doing something assumes some particular way of thinking that would “give evidence” to the action. I’m suddenly reminded of Wayne Booth’s book, Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, but now is not the time to take a closer look at that.]
From Berlin, J. A. (1988). Rhetoric and ideology in the writing class. College English (50) 5, 477‐494.
While Technical Communication is commonly defined as a practice and not a field of research, any well-established field should have general research questions. So, what are the research questions in the field of Technical Communication? This is a difficult question because the field is a hybrid of many different fields, such as rhetoric, design, speech, psychology, education, computer science, etc. But questions are important, and good questions generate more questions.
To find the answer, Rude looks at 109 books, analyzing them on the large-scale, to see what questions the field is asking. Rude believes that Technical Communication’s main question is this: how do texts (defined broadly) mediate knowledge, values, and action in social and professional contexts?
From this question, Rude examines 4 related questions that divide the field into 4 main areas (though some of the questions can be in more than one area):
- Disciplinarity: Who are we? Why are we here? What is our history, and what is our future?
- Pedagogy: What should we teach and how?
- Practice: How should texts be ethical and effective? What are the best practices?
- Social Change: How do texts function as agents of knowledge making, action, and change?
Much energy has already gone to pedagogy and practice, but “a sustainable academic field is built on research questions that develop knowledge” (205). In other words, what are these researchers trying to discover? [But wait a minute: is Rude not implying a separation between knowledge and pedagogy and practice here? If so, why? Do we need to?]
From Carolyn D. Rude, “Mapping the Research Questions in Technical Communication,” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 23.2 (2009); 174‐201.
While technical communicators and scholars have called for more studies between the intersections of rhetoric and technical communication, in this article, Todd writes that they haven’t done much with the canon of invention, and what has been done with that canon comes only from classical rhetoric. His article discusses what Burke has to add to these discussions. The article focuses on how Burke might be used in the technical communication classroom and other settings, and mentions several Burkean terms like the pentad, ambiguities, propoedentic or nimbleness of thought, limits of agreement, joycing or what Todd calls etymological extension, finding the complex in the simple, expanding the circumference, and four master tropes, all of which are shown to be invention strategies. Personally, I am surprised that Burke’s notion of form is missing here, but I will have to perhaps write something that adds to this discussion as well.
Jeff Todd. 2000. Burkean Invention in Technical Communication. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, January 2000; vol. 30, 1: pp. 81-96.
While other scholars have used many theories to talk about professional writing and to think about text and context, in this article, Thomas Miller draws on classical rhetoric because it justifies a social and ethics of technical and professional writing. Technical writing, after all, has a strong emphasis on purpose, practicality, and the fulfillment of goals. For civic humanists like Aristotle and Isocrates, the emphasis was on making a morally good person who demonstrated phronesis, or practical wisdom, the capacity to say the right thing at the right time, solving problems when perfect knowledge wasn’t possible. Miller writes, “For Aristotle (and for civic humanists generally), practical wisdom is based on a broad-based understanding of the shared experiences and traditions of the community that enables us to discover what is best in a particular situation” (57-58).
So, there should be no division between theory and practice. Professionals run in to problems when they know more than they can put into practice. They have to learn common sense and how to apply principles in order to be successful. Knowledge is not an object, but is socially constructed.
Civic humanism manages the so-called divide between theory and practice. We can’t pretend that rhetoric is just theory whereas composition is the techne, the practice of that theory. Technical writing is social action. Writing is not amoral, and neither science nor writing is free from values (63). Miller sounds a lot like James Berlin’s 1988 argument in several parts of this article. Humans can’t be reduced to information. We’re much more than that.
An uncritical but fragmented knowledge can be dangerous to humanism (69). Separating context and text can be, too. We should teach technical and professional writing as social praxis so that it becomes more than just a skills class–so that it becomes practical in the most important sense of that word.
Miller, Thomas P. 1991. “Treating Professional Writing as Social Praxis” JAC. Vol. 11, 1: pp. 57-72.
Miller clearly explains her argument in these terms:
“I wish to argue that the common opinion that the undergraduate technical writing course is a ‘skills’ course with little or no humanistic value is the result of a lingering but pervasive positivist view of science.”
The positivist view that Miller is arguing against seems to be similar to, if not the same thing that Burke calls semantic meaning and argues against in “Semantic and Poetic Meaning.” Positivism reduces science to the testable, and words are not science but they get in the way of knowledge. From that perspective, only sensory data is pure knowledge.
For Miller, positivism has unfortunately influenced the teaching of technical writing in at least 4 ways.
- First, we talk about clarity, but the term clarity is not objective because we can’t actually explain what it means.
- Second, we talk about style and form without talking about invention. Does science invent? Or discover?
- Third, we teach that tone should be objective and impersonal, but there are real people reading our writing.
- Fourth, we talk about levels of audience.
But philosophers don’t believe in positivism, anymore, and rhetoric is actually epistemic. In other words, words are themselves forms of knowledge, and knowledge is created. Science is about symbols and arguments, not just about material things. In short, science is a form of rhetoric.
Since communication occurs in communities, we should talk about understanding in technical communication and not just skills because discussions on skills tend to emphasize the writer, whereas a focus on understanding emphasizes both writer and reader. And that focus on both writers and readers is necessary because we don’t want to neglect the one while privileging the other.
From Carolyn R. Miller, “A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing.” Johndan Johnson‐Eilola and Stuart A. Selber, Eds., Central Works in Technical Communication, Oxford University Press, 2004.
In User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts, Robert Johnson takes James Kinneavy’s application of I.A. Richard’s rhetorical triangle and appropriates it to technology, concluding that technical communication and usability studies can benefit from centering technology on users instead of designers. Users are practitioners, producers, and citizens, he writes (46).
In other words, rhetorical theory can be used to talk about artifacts in technical communication and usability studies. Technology, like speeches, are designed for users and not designers. But, historically, designers were privileged over users, and to some degree, they still are, but they shouldn’t be because the audience plays a key role that cannot be neglected: the end of technology is users–people, human beings. The rhetorical situation triangle thing of speaker, audience, and purpose, should be used to talk about and think about technology.
In short, users are practitioners, producers, and citizens.
Here’s the citation for the book:
Johnson, R. R. (1998). User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts. State University of New York Press.
Wikramanayake responds to Grimaldi’s 1957 article by saying that Grimaldi only discusses how pistis is used in 1354-1356 in the Rhetoric, arguing that Grimaldi is wrong on the grounds that the entire treatise needs to be discussed, not just the first bit. So, for Wikramanayake, while pistisis used in 3 senses throughout Aristotle’s Rhetoric, one of these senses, the “pledge of good faith” at 1375a10 is not relevant to Aristotle’s rhetorical theory.
There are only two other meanings—not Grimaldi’s three—and they overlap with one another: 1) the state of mind that is produced in the audience and 2) the means whereby that state of mind is produced. Wikramanayake’s first meaning—the state of mind produced in the audience—corresponds with Grimaldi’s third meaning, whereas Wikramanayake believes his second meaning is similar to Grimaldi’s second meaning. Wikramanayake contends that Grimaldi’s first meaning, pisteis as subject matter or source material, does not exist in Aristotle because whenever Aristotle talks about source material or subject matter he uses either circumlocution, or toposor eidos.
So, Wikramanayake’s second meaning is limited to pisteis atechnoias well as pisteis entechnoi, the latter of which for Wikramanayake includes ethical, emotional, and logical demonstration. Furthermore, the logical part of pisteis entechnoi contains demonstration by enthymeme and paradigm. Wikramanayake then contends that Grimaldi excludes enthymemes and paradigms from logical proofs, but demonstration is one of the proofs. In fact, enthymeme is, as Aristotle says, the body of proof, not just an appendage, so Grimaldi must be wrong.
Wikramanayake, G. H. 1961. “A Note on the Pisteis in Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” The American Journal of Philology 82(2): 1961, pp. 193-196.