Monday, January 28, 2008

Linear Sminear

All three pieces bat around one of the questions central to the Composition and Rhetoric field: how can the writer truly create something authentic and not just ideologically driven? It is unfortunate that American education remains an expedient machine intent on creating automatons under the guise of literacy. As Hesse and Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola mention essays and literacy respectively, it appears that a cultural laziness has gripped educators to use these terms broadly instead specifically; and dominate ideology is happy (and, no doubt, responsible for) umbrella statements that allow for constraint in student writing. Most notably, Hesse and Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola note that such sweeping definitions reinforce the expectations for linear composition, which not only complicates contrastive modes of discursive writing but also is a beginning of invaliding non-discursive modes of composition such as image and sound.

The pessimist in me thinks that computers and the digital screen will only manifest new ways of exercising power over groups of people; and the potency of this control will come from the fallacy that technological spaces are in fact neutral. The optimist in me believes what Baron says when he states, “the computer has indeed changed the ways some of us do things with words, and the rapid changes in technological development suggest that it will continue to do so in ways we cannot yet foresee” (31). The computer is not just a new means for control, it is a new means to reform literacy (and, by the way, Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola have totally ruined ‘literacy’ for me by exposing it as a Comp buzz word; now I have to search for a new word, and apparently ‘articulation’ is already taken).

So, question: if post-modern notions of space and time frees up the user of technology from learning linearly, whose to say that non-linearity doesn’t become the enemy by being a form of literacy that not everyone is comfortable with? If non-linearity becomes a dominant form of expression (and I am even wondering if it even could be a dominant form of expression in education), couldn’t it be just as exclusive as linear forms in that non-linear forms can be elusive in meaning while linearity at least attempts at clarity? This just one of those nagging questions that have whenever any idea is championed as a solution to education.

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