Tag Archives: genre tracing

Once Upon A Time: Telling our Metacognition Stories (Padawan Style)

Mind Map for 25 Feb: http://popplet.com/app/#/1571354

padawan children image Star Wars

(c) Star Wars: young padawan learners

Story telling — long has this been a means of relaying vital cultural history and identity, as well as serving as the first-ever training regimen for molding the minds of young and old alike. But it’s clearly more than that: it’s reflective assessment incarnate. What better way to find out if your young padawans have absorbed the enormity of the Powers of the Force than to ask them to repackage the learning — the connections, the network nodes, the relationship movements, the buses, etc.?

So it would only be natural to replicate such learning practices in a classroom of

Luke Skywalker trains with Yoda StarWars

(c) Star Wars: Padawan Luke Training With Jedi Master Yoda

our sort, and certainly gave me new ideas for my own freshman writing courses! Networking our thinking, making visible the connections between course objectives & practices, revealing some of the borders and boundaries in new ways — all mediated by a specified space and time, creating a framework for our thinking that both limited it and gave it new range. Yep — pedagogy, Yoda-style. And, just like me / us, Luke is the older padawan — with all sorts of other networked connections from life and learning forcing their way into his training, distracting but also proving to be unexpected paths of action. Say hello to Yoda meets Actor Network Theory.

Google Images’ available image selections for networks is becoming increasingly less accurate in their potential to capture the types of connections we’re making. Many results reflect a dominance of either machine or organic, but not a mix of both. I think that’s telling, at least insofar as the thinking I’m doing about mediators (thanks Latour).

aha!ALERT:  Personal “Aha!” moment — (better late than never)  Some of my thinking has been whether or not we can start to think about THEORIES as GENRES, and if so, can we than apply genre tracing as a way to map the conflicts and the tensions — as this week’s reading of Spinuzzi suggests we do — in order to place them in a map that shows the productive relationships available to our continued work? Hello Popplets and Legos and Storytelling! I realize that Spinuzzi likely intended genre tracing to be applied to nodes or objects of study, but isn’t that exactly what we are doing with our activities?

While completing my Mind Map, I came across an interesting article of applied theory that reminded me of our Latour reading this week: “Spotting Boundary Spanner.” The article asserts that “Boundary spanners are a vital missing component in connecting practical theories and knowledge with real world applications.” Latour has asserted that this spanner / mediator is likely a person.

So I ask you: are WE padawan spanners? Learning the way of our disciplines (The Force) to mediate “all the theories.” By George, I think I may be onto something.


MindMap: 18 Feb.

Mind Map: http://popplet.com/app/#/1571354

Spinuzzi: Traffic Systems (image from NobleEd.com)

Spinuzzi: Traffic Systems (image from NobleEd.com)

This last week’s introduction to Spinuzzi created all sorts of unifying connections to the Popplet! And yet…

The trouble is, I have been thinking that now is the time to integrate a 3-D element.  I had been considering creating a separate Popplet to link in, the bottom layer as theory (which works rhetorically as well as visually, as it would provide the foundational support to all that connects on the application layer), the superimposed layer as application or operationalized theory — an act of dispersion, perhaps? My hesitation to integrate this layering thus far is that producing such layering on a 2-D map will inevitably create a loss — and, I think, a significant one at that, given the way we’ve been conceptualizing networks. Placing all the network connections and elements on a single plain does have its merits — for example, the rhetorical implications of equality of elements and influence. However, that also creates a dilemma — we risk falling into Foucault‘s trap of the History of Ideas’ linearities. Unlike wire-frame software programs like AutoCAD, our Popplet space does have its visualizing limitations. It’s great to show the breadth of our connectivity of ideas, but not the depth.

This became especially clear to me as I was trying to show visible and overt connectivity through our little gray lines (which cannot be optimized through coloration) between the theorists — for which I’ve tried to create labeling mechanisms via color. Also, the space cannot truly capture the layering of these connections, such as an image of the body’s circulatory system here:

PC World Screen Capture from Zygote Body program

PC World Screen Capture from Zygote Body program

Before breakthroughs in computer imaging, we might render this complex system using page overlays. (Remember those books with clear plastic pages that created layers upon layers of details, from sailing ships to the human body?) However, technology makes it easier to convey knowledge  multimodally…sometimes. Foucault emphasizes the importance of the seen/not seen when it comes to discourse analysis, as does Spinuzzi, Biesecker, Miller, and Bazerman. So even while I’m creating a Popplet to demonstrate knowledge network nodes and connectivity, the rhetorical situation that IS the Popplet space is defining the WAYS I am able to render this.

My sense of this space strongly reminds me of this week’s readings about CHAT, especially Telling #4 of Jody Shipka & Bill Chewning’s article, “Live Composition: Four Variations of a Telling.” (Select “press ‘7’ for variation four.) But that’s another blog post.

In the meantime, during my Popplet / Blog planning, I came across the following resource — certainly worth a read, all things considered:

Maria Perpetua Socorro U. Liwanag and Steve Dresbach. “Reading Multimodally: Designing and Developing Multimedia Literacy Projects through an Understanding of Eye Movement Miscue Analysis (EMMA).”


Reading Notes: Spinuzzi

Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003.

Spinuzzi’s work is a practical application of theory, and as such serves as a fulcrum of sorts on which many of our previous theorists have “play.” Spinuzzi’s book illustrates a methodology which he refers to as “genre tracing,” a means of “examin[ing] how people interact with complex institutions, disciplines, and communities” (23), at times with results not unlike that depicted by the image above. More importantly to our approach to networks (especially those that develop by overlapping existing structures), I believe, is his insistence that this methodology concerns itself with the way workers develop “unofficial…work practices and genres, by adapting old genres to new uses” (23). He advances this method of analysis as a counterpoint to what he refers to as “user-centered design approaches” (x), which he critiques in subsequent chapters as one that creates a “victim narrative” as a way to create binaries of community and actions – in other words, dominant hierarchies. His work provides an interesting illustration of the work we’re doing, combining existing theories to create a new lens, one suitable to a specific object of study: information design. For Spinuzzi, this involves a study of traffic workers, a study that examines both “traditional” means of analysis (the designers at the top of the solution hierarchy) as well as the user-centered “innovative solutions.” Spinuzzi  resists choosing one over the other – perhaps what Foucault would refer to as applying a theory of “unities” (26) – and promotes an approach that blends Genre Theory with Activity Theory to information design problems or situations (4).

Spinuzzi’s work explores two competing discourse communities (designers and users), all the while echoing many of the works we’ve read thus far: Bitzer’s systematic rhetorical situation, Foucault’s ideas on unities and irregularities / roles, Popham’s  boundary forms and genres, Miller’s and Bazerman’s work with motives and action,  the work by Bourelle et al. on digital assessment, Biesecker and relationships, and agency as it relates to localized discourse patterns / needs (which all of our authors thus far have touched upon to one degree or another). Perhaps the most interesting passage, I found, was his integration of Bakhtin’s ideas as they relate to communication practices. The concept of centripetal and centrifugal “impulses” (20) creates a fascinating analogy with which to consider the discourse practices of these two communities: designers and users. His suggestion that the centripetal describes those discourse communities that gravitate toward the “formalization, normalization, regularity, convention, stability, and stasis” – the official line (20) – appears to effectively characterize the sort of knowledge creation privileging  Foucault points to in his work. The centrifugal, on the other hand, represents “resistance…, innovation, — and chaos” (20), features that seem more conducive to discussions of agency and the realism of the work place than its counterpart. This passage alone – combined with his list of justifications for using genre tracing as a methodology (22-23) – opens numerous points of connection to our course discussions regarding the ways we envision networks functioning and moving knowledge. This is a rich resource, which will no doubt make its way into my next Case Study.

As a final thought, the tensions Spinuzzi points to brought to mind several images: push-me-pull-you animal from Dr. Doolittle, as well as a very old Abbott and Costello movie – in particular the scene found at time hack 2:00. Both images suggest a unified network of organic origin, often faced with opposing impulses, very much like the average work place.

Abbott and Costello: “Have Badge Will Chase” (1955)