Literature Review

In his landmark publication, Orality and Literacy , Walter J. Ong (1982) challenges our ideas about the relationship between oral culture and cultures of written literacy. He draws a line between oral cultures and what he terms as secondary orality. The book delineates how oral cultures were community and group oriented, with no one “owning” stories but with stories being constantly retold and changed. With written literacy, then, came the development of individualism; he explains that “print culture gave birth to the romantic notions of 'originality' and 'creativity'” (p. 131). Technology and media bring secondary orality, where various cultures have moved back to group experiences, but with a greater comprehension of the relationship between self and that group. Similarly, in Writing New Media, Wysocki et al. (2004) explains that “we should call 'new media texts' those that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality: such composers design texts that help readers/consumers/viewers stay alert to how any text—like its composers and readers—doesn't function independently of how it is made and in what contexts” (p. 15). Wysocki draws much of her understanding from Bruce Horner's discussion in Terms of Works for Composition: A Materialist Critique (2001). He focuses the reader's interest on the “shift from the technologies of paper and pen to computer software and hardware”, but broadens our understanding to those “socioeconomic conditions contributing to writing production” (p. xviii). These new media exemplify Ong's “secondary orality” through their greater focus on the relationship between author and context. Many first-year composition textbooks also uphold the need to present various types of rhetorical communication to students. For example, in the Preface to Everything's an Argument , Andrea Lunsford (2004) says that the text has two assumptions: “First, language provides the most powerful means of understanding the world and of using that understanding to help shape lives. Second, all language—including the language of visual images or of symbol systems other than writing—is persuasive, pointing in a direction and asking for response” (p. v).

In “Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing,” Maxine Hairston (1992) expresses her view that “writing courses, especially required freshman courses, should not be for anything or about anything other than writing itself, and how one uses it to learn and think and communicate” (p. 697). This strict outlook on the composition classroom might reject the study of non-written forms of communication, rhetoric, and literacy. Yet, she continues later that “we know that students develop best as writers when they can write about something they care about” (p. 708). However, many students do not care about writing, for there are other forms of literacy with which they are more comfortable. Therefore, if we, as she says, focus on the “educational needs of the student” a more comprehensive pedagogical slant may be needed (p. 698). In their Spring 2006 article, “Ideas in Practice: Building Bridges in a Multicultural Learning Community” authors James, Bruch, and Jehangir of the University of Minneapolis point out that higher education often has “rules, traditions, discourse, and values that may be very different from students' home world” and “to help students construct bridges between their personal and cultural knowledge and that of the academic world, educators must be willing to learn from students' experiences and ways of knowing” (p. 10). Because our “ways of knowing,” i.e. literacy, are influenced by our surroundings, as the aforementioned authors have shown, in order to construct those bridges, we should develop pedagogical strategies that emphasize these ways of knowing.


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