Thursday, October 18, 2007

Computers & Writing: The Cyborg Age

James Inman defines a cyborg history as one considering alternate histories of the computers and writing community, in addition to exploring the following questions: "What about technologies other than the computer? What about resistance to technologies? What about the influence of women? What about the influence of minorities?" (60). A traditional history would probably just be a list of dates, like when word processors entered classrooms and such, but Inman's cyborg history is at the margins related to such entries.

I suppose I was most intrigued by Inman's declaration that we should look at technologies beyond the computer. I have become interested lately in the varying literacies that many young people have, esp. w/r/t text messaging acronyms and the issues these students have in writing for the classroom. In chapter 4, 'Integrated Meaning-Making Systems,' Inman uses three case studies to illustrate the need for us to look at this in a broader way.

Detailing the writing process of one of his students, named here Jose, Inman demonstrates why such broad definitions are important. Rather than just sitting in front of the computer and typing away, Jose also listens to music over headphones, sits in an uncomfortable chair, and often IMs his friends while composing. The point is that computers aren't the only technologies that matter in constructing meaning, which is why constructions like "computer literacy that reference a specific technology or family of technologies fall short [of an accurate definition]" (168).

Jose's classroom is then studied, both with an extensive description of the physical classroom, and then with discussion about various group activities the class participated in. Inman concludes this section by saying that we learned through this classroom study that hierarchies will emerge in any system, and that "any histories a system has will continue to exert influence on that system, even if changes are made" (170).

I do not fault Inman's conclusions (far from it, I agree with him completely), but I wonder if we really needed these case studies to come to these conclusions. Weren't we already aware that hierarchies emerge in every system? And that the context in which meaning is constructed influences that meaning? These ideas are completely relevant, as I found all of
Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Age to be, it just doesn't seem thought provoking or original to me, neither in content or presentation.

But maybe that's not so bad.

1 comment:

dbmor10 said...

I do not fault Inman's conclusions (far from it, I agree with him completely), but I wonder if we really needed these case studies to come to these conclusions. Weren't we already aware that hierarchies emerge in every system? And that the context in which meaning is constructed influences that meaning? These ideas are completely relevant, as I found all of Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Age to be, it just doesn't seem thought provoking or original to me, neither in content or presentation.

I'd like to see you engage your questions more fully. You may be getting at something. Why wasn't this text as thought provoking? Because you already knew the points? Because of the format of the book? Because in some ways the book seems less scholarly? Inman is responding to a body of literature that claimed the internet would create democracy because online we would have no gender or class. The case studies serve as counter examples. So, is the issue a matter of timeliness--the the time for this point has passed? Had it passed when he wrote it?

You have brought in very interesting books, so perhaps the design of unique books is not new to you. However, in scholarly forums, are audiences unfamiliar with Inman's presentation? Is it really not new, there? Just asking some questions to push you further in your thinking or, at least, your articulation of it.