Technology and Culture

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The gender_cyber_archive

Anyone interested in feminist theory, particularly as it applies to technology, ought to peruse the gender_cyber_archive, unless you already have and I'm the last to find out about it. In the archive are written essays and audio lectures in .ram format. I'm especially interested in these:

Cross-posted to Kairosnews.

Gender and IT Encyclopedia Entries

I just got the green light to write two articles for the Gender and Information Technology Encyclopedia, one on Gender Theory and Information Technology and one on Gender and Intellectual Rights Concepts. 8) Should be fun and a good exercise for my dissertation research.

Weblog Authorship and Agency in "the Unfolding Action of a Discourse"

Here's my submission for Computers & Writing 2005, which is part of a panel on authorship-intellectual property-collaboration-open source, tap tap: and all that jazz! :)

Recent critiques of authorship have yielded the following insights. First, authors do not exist outside a social and historical context; social and material conditions enable and constrain authorship. Authors are, historically speaking, usually men, usually white, and usually economically privileged enough to afford the leisure time it takes to write. Second, a text is not the product of a sole author. Barthes argues that texts consist of "multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation." The field of composition has moved from the understanding
of authorship as a solitary act resulting in a product owned by an individual to an understanding of authorship as a weaving together of other texts the writer has read and voices he or she has heard in conversation. Lunsford (1999) takes up these critiques of authorship and calls for new ways of thinking "a view of agency as residing in what
Susan West defines as the "unfolding action of a discourse; in the knowing and telling of the attentive rhetor/responder rather than in static original ideas" (as cited in Lunsford, 1999, p. 185-186). Lunsford argues for "owning up" rather than owning, agency in
"answerability," and a view of self as always in relation to others.

This presenter will bring these ideas to bear on weblogging communities and practices. Weblogs emerged pari passu with the rise of open source and publicly licensed software, the backlash against the tightening of copyright restrictions in the 1990s, and the popularity of peer-to-peer networks. This influence can be seen in the widespread use of Creative Commons licenses on weblogs and in the rhetorical practices of weblogging, which take place in a network and for an audience who is invited to respond. Weblogging communities value accountability, exchange in the form of comments or trackbacks, and authority as situated in the connections one makes among discourses and the selecting and interpreting of content.

Intellectual Property Links for Compositionists

Several of us are working on revamping the blog for CCCC-IP, and part of what we want to do is to have a nice big portal of resources on authorship, intellectual property, copyright, public domain, open content, open source, and collaboration for people in composition. For my part, I'd like the CCCC-IP portal to be the best, most comprehensive IP portal on the entire interweb. We're eventually going to divide it into subcategories, but here are the links I've thrown together for now, in no particular order:

Arete and This Public Address also have a portal with some IP links that I'll have to check out. (NOTE: I will be adding links to this entry and reorganizing the links as I see fit.) We also need links to campus IP policies for instructors (for distance ed, etc.), more articles (esp. on theories of authorship, e.g. Foucault, Barthes, etc.), collections of public domain content, material on libraries and IP, articles on open-access scholarship, anything you think is appropriate. Please comment! Even just pasting in URLs would be great.

The Cluetrain Manifesto and Business and Technical Writing Classes

Okay, I've been thinking about this for months now, so I might as well blog about it. Here's my question: Does anyone teaching business writing and/or technical writing assign The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual? Based on what I know, my guess would be that either very few teachers assign it, or no one does. (If I'm wrong, please tell me; please set me straight.) So who cares, you might ask. Why are you sweatin' it, Clancy?

For me, it's about the disconnect between the way writing is taught and the way writing is, especially when it comes to business and technical writing. The Cluetrain Manifesto has been called "the most important book about communication written in the last 30 years." Many bloggers and other webby cognoscenti divide the world into pre-Cluetrain and post-Cluetrain. I'm not trying to say that Cluetrain should be treated as some sort of tech comm Bible or anything, but clearly it's a very important book worth at least reading and discussing in business and technical writing classes. I know it's not written by academic rhetoricians, but I think it ought to be assigned. I've been thinking about writing a review of it and sending it to the Journal of Business and Technical Communication. (Of course, if someone has already reviewed it for that journal, I'm going to feel like a real heel...a pleasantly surprised heel, though.) Consider some of the "95 Theses":

Research Methods and Wikipedia

I'm fully aware of the extent to which I'm showing my geekiness here, but lately I've been noticing that Wikipedia doesn't have many entries on qualitative research methods. If I were teaching a graduate course in research methods, I'd assign 1000-2000 word articles on the following topics -- and more as I think of them -- to be written for submission to Wikipedia (this assignment could be collaborative):

For the past few weeks, I've been following Clay's book reviews with interest, as he's rereading texts on methods in preparation for his Spring 2005 research methods class. I hope he'll consider having his students write articles for Wikipedia. Besides being helpful for the students, it would put information and knowledge into the commons and benefit others.

Edited to link to Clay's course description and to add that Wikipedia does have decent entries on case study and ethnography.

Prelims Are Up

I finally finished coding my prelims into HTML, so they're available if you want to look at them. I confess, I haven't been in a big rush to do it. I don't think I've recovered from them yet; I'm not ready to look back on the whole experience and laugh, that's for sure.

The Unfolding of the Discourse

A couple of friends and I are putting together a panel on technology and new models of authorship and intellectual property for Computers and Writing 2005. The deadline is October 28, but one person on the panel emailed us suggesting we get started with the panel and added, "I know Clancy likes to get started early." :D This is my reputation now? All because I'm paranoid that my proposals for CCCC won't get accepted, so I always try to goad people into getting a draft ready by the coaching deadline? Okay, I guess I do like to get an early start. Here's the nascent idea -- a feminist analysis of weblog authorship -- which has been floating around in my mind off-and-on for a few months now. Because of said nascence, I'll do much meandering before I get to the point, if I even have one yet.

In "Rhetoric, feminism, and the politics of textual ownership," Andrea Lunsford critiques the solitary, originary, proprietary model of authorship and warns readers of the implications of the appropriation of authorship by corporate entities such as Disney and Microsoft (for a preliminary exploration of these ideas, see her 1997 keynote at Feminisms and Rhetorics). The article first appeared in College English in 1999, and much of it is a review of debates within postmodern theory about authorship and recent changes in U.S. copyright legislation. Postmodern/poststructuralist and feminist theorists, most notably Barthes and Foucault, have de-reified the Authorial Genius, showing him to be an historical construction and yielding two significant insights:

  1. Authors do not exist outside a social and historical context; social and material conditions enable and constrain authorship. "Men of letters" are, historically speaking, usually men, usually white, and usually economically privileged enough to afford the leisure time it takes to write.
  2. A text is not the product of a sole author. As Barthes writes, "a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation." The act of composition is exposed as a weaving together of other texts the writer has read and voices he or she has heard in conversation.

Lunsford juxtaposes these theoretical claims with large-scale efforts on the part of corporations to assume the role of author and hyperprotect content, e.g. Mickey Mouse and the Windows source code, and she rightly insists that in practice, the author is alive and well, so well that fair use (including for educational purposes) and the sharing of knowledge are threatened. This review is intended as a wake-up call for scholars in rhetoric and composition; five years ago, these issues were not discussed as often as they are now. (I'd still argue that intellectual property debates aren't as high a priority as they should be on the discipline's scholarly agenda; what do others think? Colleagues sometimes say to me, "I still don't understand why I should care about intellectual property." How can the stakes be better communicated? Does one have to have a direct encounter with "permission culture" before he or she fully understands?)

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