Conclusions and Useful Connections
I conclude, first, that Medium Studies research extends the concerns of composition research by investigating how the computer can act as a co-writer. This field focuses more specifically on the issue of electronic mediation of words and text and also analyzes the effects of the medium on the message. Medium Studies can, therefore, help open new doors for research on VRT programs as “active cognizers” (Hayles, “Print” 84) and the manner in which cognition flows between the composing writer and the VRT program. The concerns of medium and media studies researchers who study human/machine interaction offer compositionists many critical areas to focus on in exploring C-MOC as a medium for student writers. Composition instructors should note that C-MOC changes the composing process on a level that traditional dictation and keyboarding cannot. Machine-generated best guesses usually have some flaws, and these flaws compel us to think more deeply about the interaction between VRT programs and writers.
Secondly, I conclude that ethnography is a useful means of illustrating and exploring C-MOC’s mediation of student writers’ processes. In the ethnography, Molly altered her entire beginning sentence on the basis of errors in recognition. Denisha diminished some of her specificity due to issues with the recognition of proper names. Chandra admitted that a word change brought about by a DNS error changed the tone of her composition. She felt that changing “finds out” to “discovers” made the sentence sound more formal and more appropriate for an academic audience. She, therefore, reflected on the error’s effect on the style in her text. Such reflections and interactions with errors will make students more consciously engage with their own concerns with style.
Implications for medium studies and ethnography relate to how we represent the interaction between writer and machine during the writing process. For example, Hayles’ discussion of the concept of computer-as-co-writer has significant implications for C-MOC. In considering the ways in which humans interact with computers, the works by Hayles, Meyrowitz, Carroll and Rosson, Bolter, Landow, and Eilola flesh out the complex relationships between writers and readers and electronic media. Hayles’s concept of Media Specific Analysis holds significant implications for C-MOC. MSA will allow researchers to further question how terms such as “writing” or “dictating” change when writers work with C-MOC programs.
Much more can be done to illustrate how C-MOC shapes our students’ written products and composing processes. I see the interaction between student writers and their technologies to be of significance rhetorically for 21st century composition studies. Therefore, we need research questions tailored to understanding the interference of VRT programs with students’ composing processes. Medium Studies and ethnography both aided me in working toward research questions involving writers’ interaction with errors as well as the development of automaticity with the commands. Medium Studies can help compositionists design research questions geared toward a thorough investigation of student writers’ interaction with C-MOC programs. C-MOC is not traditional dictation. Therefore, I recommend that investigations of this medium must acknowledge the work by medium theorists who have already explored how composing changes in different media.