Taking Writing on-Line: The Intersections of Rhetoric, Technology, and Community in the Composition Classroom

Dissertation, The University of North Dakota (2000)

Discourse constructs individuals in community and by analogy constructs students in the networked-writing classroom. This work of constructing subjects moves us alternately toward the group and away toward becoming more individual . In order to understand this coordinate but opposite movement within on-line communication, the dissertation brings together the two strands of technology and rhetoric. This rhetoric of technology is defined as the invention, arrangement, and delivery of computer-mediated language for the purpose of evoking action upon the part of an audience. The dissertation presents---among others---the discourse theory of Patricia Bizzell, Joseph Harris's ideas concerning the usefulness of the term "community," the "political unconscious" of Fredric Jameson, Jacques Derrida's notion of differance and dissemination, and Hawisher and Selfe's "rhetoric of technology." It argues that these ideas and those of Susan Wells, especially her "rhetoric of intersubjectivity," allow us to examine technology within community and see how it reduces multiple discourses while it creates new solidarities between individuals. ;The dissertation examines the uses on-line language may be put to in networked classroom communities. It recognizes this language as highly volatile and susceptible to manipulation. It presents two case studies of networked classroom practice that profile students' and teachers' work in the new milieu of the on-line writing classroom. The first case study examines the classroom listserv and presents an analysis of its discourse that acts to motivate both the individual and the group. This technology must, however, be let to build community within the forms of the face-to-face classroom. The second case study examines the laptop classroom where students combine resistance and creativity to manage the oppression of the technology's instrumentalism. ;In a more personal vein, the author reflects on Freud's dream analysis, the cyborg, and one intransigent student that highlight his own uses of technology to discover the work of the network-writing teacher. The challenge to teaching in these on-line virtual environments is to make them more richly inhabited and not to take them for granted or let them be subsumed into the ubiquitous rhetoric of corporate e-commerce
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