The Spirit and Heart of Digital Writing—Digital Identity (Mid-Term Point Response)

http://www.jedbrubaker.com/

Hi, All! Did you ever think of what will happen to all your online files after you die? I seriously thought of this problem. I am the kind of person who always lament on the short life span I have on this planet and I seriously thought that I may want to pass down all my files, records of my pictures, my failures, and my success to my offspring. I felt bad when I thought they might be disappear like myself one day. And I want to hold fast to them, to preserve sort of a trace on earth that I had existed.

At this point of the semester, I think all of the topics we have read and discussed about are related to each other, but of all the issues, digital identity situates at the heart of the whole picture. Maybe because I am focusing my final project on digital identity, I think all the other topics are related or of importance to this very notion of digital identity. I tried to brainstorm the issue of digital identity and found myself thinking about globalization, digital composition, multimodal composition, writing with the new media, digital literacy, digital ethics, and so on.

Firstly, mass media and new media enable and accelerate digital globalization, which allows world citizens to execute power and exchange ideas cross cultures. Therefore, digital imperialism is quite an issue in the online writing space where news agencies obviously cling to their own set of norms and ethical standards. Digital divide and digital literacy are also investigated both inside one culture and from cross-cultural perspectives. All these issues cannot even exist without the core idea of digital identity. If we are not using social media and the digital appliances such as cellphone, computer, and so on, everything we are talking about now will be in the vacuum.

Steven Krause’s attitude in his “A Very Brief and Very Selective History of Computers and Composition” is one example of how the history of technology and computers has developed fast. When I read it, I cannot help thinking what the world is like during each stage of the computer and internet development. Globalization is displayed in Lanham’s “The Electronic Word” . The fact that the internet has enabled millions of the unprivileged and marginalized to read, to write, and to communicate with people whom in the non-digital age they could not get in touch with. Lanham also shows us the new phenomenon of the “unity of knowledge” and the disappearance of disciplinary boundaries.

Secondly, writing or composition instruction, under such digital and global circumstances, gets a new dimension of visual or multimodal writing perspective. Writing, which were mainly verbal texts, is increasingly embracing visual compositions. Writing instruction that once faced with the difficulty of world Englishes is now facing another challenge of how to instruct visual rhetoric as parallel to verbal rhetoric, and how to assess writing if it is multimodal. This current situation, is to some extent a step forward to build a new babel though the hybrid of verbal and visual rhetoric, the notion of which Dr. Hocks forges. Literacy for a world citizen is not only the verbal skills in the printing era, but also the ability to navigate and get what we want in a vast information sea, the ability to produce and understand multimodal and multi-media writing. Our identity as writers shifted from a simple pen and paper form to a complex but colorful one as displayed in Anderson’s prosumer concept. Issues such as ethics, intellectual property rights, legal enforcement on privacies, and so on will be increasingly urgent for many areas, including our field of rhetoric and composition.

“CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments” defines the teaching, learning, and assessing writing in a digital age and makes digital writing and composition official and authoritative in the filed of composition. Because the technology and new media give us opportunities to reevaluate writing, to use machine to grade writings, and to assess writings that are not only verbal, but visual. “The Rhetoric of Technology and the Electronic Writing” illustrates how the increasingly use of computers and the internet in a writing classroom can be both challenging and rewarding depending on how the writing instructors make use of the technology. This makes our teaching, assessment, and view of writing different from our old tradition of verbal and printed notion of composition. We also face the issue of computer literacy as functional literacy as stated by Selber. Students’ performance can be enhanced if we teach them to become “empowered users” or “functional literate users”(7). Yancey’s “new key” embraces multi-literacies that have been enabled by digital revolution and Dr. Hocks’ paper gives us a hybrid both textual and visual rhetoric in digital writing, and she shows us how to teach visual rhetoric in our classrooms, which is just in time for the new dimension of visual or multimodal writing perspective.

Thirdly, issues such as privacy, gender, race, religion, and even world peace come along due to varied ideologies and practices in different cultures. Whereas digital writing enables people to express their beliefs online and communicate freely, it also brings problems such as new identity crisis, true and fake identity, national and/or transnational identity, gender identity, racial identity, religious identity, and so on, which all relates and influence one’s writing process.

Selber’s advice of helping students to become not only aware of social conventions, but also capable of critically analyze discourses that they are interested in is crucial when we deal with texts and visuals permitted with various issues within different ideological frames. Silber also suggests that our functionally literate students should be able to negotiate between and among discourses. To achieve this, we have to be able to design literacy technologies that will enable different rhetorics for cross-discourse communication(16). Cynthis L. Selfe and Richard J. Selfe hold that interface can be the agent for the exertion of power in electronic contact zones because interface automatically enforce the ideology of the designer. Exertion of power is automatically related to gender, race, and other issues that will be influenced by the power hierarchy, no matter the impact is from which level. Wysocki and Jasken prefer to stress the content of the interface because it is ideologically loaded(32-33). This again, relates to the exertion of power, and the function of writing in establishing one’s social position, in expressing oneself to make others act, and so on. Digital identities and complexity in our new media identities are not only what we express ourself or the window for others to know us, but also a tool for us to influence and persuade others through the rhetoric of our identities themselves, through interface design, web design, and through rhetoric techniques embedded in both verbal and visual composition.

It is easy to reach a conclusion that digital identity become the spirit of composition online or through social media. We are who we are when we use pens to write on our most private diary notebooks before, but we are who we are now when we are represented by a set of numbers of telephone or student card, we are who we are when our images and writings are exposed on Facebook, wordpress, and so on. Identity is no longer the simple ego we can apprehend before, but a digital one that is displayed in multidimensional ways.

I found this weeks readings related to sonic literacy, relationship between literacy and identity, between voice and culture are especially interesting to my ideas on digital identity. I want to do a comparative study between major social networks in China and the US, but my knowledge of the US social networks is scarce. So I decide to do a tentative study of the two groups by analyzing digital rhetoric, digital literacy, interface design, and related topics to illustrate similarities and differences based on culture, philosophy, and theories on postmodernism and digital rhetoric.

Interesting links on digital identity:

Digital Identity: Race

“Old Wine in A New Bottle”—Literacies, and the Intertextuality Between the Print and the Digital


My response this week is on Kathleen Blake Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” because I had a headache with Cheryl Ball’s “Show, Not Tell: The Value of New Media Scholarship”.

The latter mentions the growing difficulties for teachers in our field to gain tenure position through limited publication possibilities, which is also true in China because you have to get well-known first to be able to publish. Besides, you have to spend your own money to get any book published unless you are really a big potato and publishers grab your name as an advantage to boost their business. Although the concept of “tenure” does not exist in Chinese universities, public universities do give their employees the right to prolong their contracts as long as they are willing to do so. Private universities, however, only give such a priority to those executive celebrities and famous professors or experts because they need their fame to run the business. However, publication of books and papers with big publishing houses and big magazines remains a huge challenge to teachers in the humanities, especially in the Departments of English. We have fewer professional magazines in China that can be seen as the “right places” that will make you a professor. Most teachers cannot become professors before their retirement. Competition is fierce, and a high percent of university teachers end up with associate professors or even lecturers.

Yancey’s “new key” for rhetoric and composition at this “moment” is to embrace multi-literacies that have been enabled by digital revolution. She tries to search a definition of composition in this new world permitted with multi-literacies. She suspects school education’s function on composition because her own experience is one that proves the unfruitfulness of classroom writing assignments(297-299). Her nineteenth century example illustrates the similar change today brought forth by digital revolution as compared to the what drastic changes the Industrial Revolution brought to novel writing and people’ life(299-301). She believes that the future of education is connected to the future of the English Departments because composition is a vital component of higher education(302-305) owing to its broad connection to global and social concerns. Situating the development of English Departments and the discipline of rhetoric and composition, she traces history while envision the future of writing(305-306), which, according to her opinion, will be a future that increasingly combine print and the digital technologies to enable multi-genres(307).

While facing such a future, Yancey lists three changes in our field: “Develop a new curriculum; revisit and revise writing-across-the-curriculum efforts; and develop a major in composition and rhetoric”(308). She claims that the broadened arena of rhetoric and composition embraces mani-fold writing possibilities rather than compartmenting knowledge(308). Her model of composition: “Circulation of composition, cannons of rhetoric, deicity of technology”(311-312) because they easily help us on an epistemology that both inherit the canons and corporate technological advantages. Peer review is important to our composition process because students are the living literature. Her original citation is “on-going compositions”(312). The combination of technology and the canons can be seen as “ole wine in a new bottle.” When emphasizing multi-genres, Yancey also encourages instruction of registers and genres to students by a comparison between journal article and newspaper writing (313). I think this is brilliant because most of the time students’ writing fall into the latter category, an obvious influence of mass media on writing. This task of teaching students proper genres and registers is urgent. I still remember in one session of our discussion Anderson talked about students’ unawareness of curtesy in emails, which is highly relevant to their digital life: instant messages, tweets, etc.

I found the interrelationship among the five canons fascinating. I was thinking about this these weeks and I finally found the authoritative quote here! This will be helpful to my study on comparative rhetoric(316-317). Whereas delivery is considered as the core of the five cannons in text, instruction, public extra-curricula, each one of the other canons also play the role of the leader under certain and different circumstances.

Yancey’s “deictic” definition of literacy(318) reminds me of thinking interface as a transformer. They both are, which reminds me of the context that relates to the theme of next ATTW conference—the myth of “high-context” and “low-context.” Yancy mentions Selfe’s connection for technology and literacy that technology should be paid due attention to because it teaches us new literacies(319). This is an idea at the beginning of our readings that constitutes the foundation of our course. I really like her idea of “writers use technology rhetorically” and “writing, by its very nature, encourages abstraction”(319). She incorporate other evidences such as “new composition includes rhetoric and is about literacy”(320) to elaborate that our challenge of multi-literacies, expertise with technologies, and so on demand us to recognize the intertextuality between school education and social education both in the print and on the screen(320). Such an unprecedented cross-disciplinary possibility for teachers, students, and other people alike pushes us to learn more and try to adapt the changes rather than dreaming to reverse history. When she mentions “global, educational, technological changes” at the end of her paper(321), I feel huge pressure as a reader although I know what I should do. It is really a long way to go. I mean, people are having double majors, there are even IT experts with a degree in English. How do I survive the rest of my life?

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