Rhetoricians and compositionists are showing a growing interest in combining the oral, the aural, and the written in writing courses. Peter Elbow's 1985 article, "The Shifting Relationships Between Speech and Writing," was one of the first pieces to call compositionists' attention to connections between speaking and writing. The article acted as a call "for writers and teachers of writing to recognize the enormous choice we have and to learn to take more control over the cognitive effects associated with writing" (283). Since then, technology has brought even more choices into the mix of written and spoken mediums. These electronic mediums, including speech-to-text technologies, must be brought into compositionists' conversations about literacy as we strive to foster our students' communicative abilities.
Researchers in fields such as psychology, education, business education, and the medical professions have already weighed in on questions surrounding the use of technology or dictation to facilitate oral text production. Their projects and scholarship have implications for compositionists in that they use technology to bridge the perceived gaps between students' production of spoken and written text. Helping students develop proficiency in orality as a means of creating text, therefore, is no longer entirely considered the sole domain of speech communication courses. But what has not come up to any major extent in composition studies is what happens to the process of oral composition conducted in electronically-mediated environments. The skill of oral composing seems an important area for research, given the growing array of technologies available to facilitate the oral production of text. And medium studies is my foundation in this article for exploring the vast differences between this process and that of traditional dictation. In making several of my conclusions, I will briefly draw upon my study of three undergraduate students at Texas Woman's University who collaborated with me in the Fall of 2005 to explore C-MOC as a composing process.
With the increasing accessibility of emerging voice-input technologies comes a need to investigate the rhetorical significance of speech-to-text and text-to-speech technologies. How will composition instructors teach students to implement these technologies as part of the writing process? Even with the speculative articles in composition studies, specifically those by Lowe, Honeycutt, and Stan Harrison, which discuss our need to experiment with Voice Recognition Technology (VRT), compositionists still know quite little about how writers work with such technologies to make meaning in different contexts and genres. The ways in which computer-mediated oral composing will have an impact on composition programs will depend on how we understand the oral composing process and VRT programs. Compositionists need to investigate writers' interaction with the medium rather than assuming that working with C-MOC is the same as dictating to a stenographer. The following two research questions will allow us a starting point from which to recognize how C-MOC affects the writing process:
How can medium studies yield design observations and predictions about VRT as a written and oral medium?
How might an ethnography of student writers using C-MOC help illustrate how C-MOC's mediation changes the composing process?
Because of its obvious link to traditional dictation practices, computer-mediated oral composing is often identified only as an assistive practice. Some consider oral composing to be of benefit primarily to students not yet able to command the mechanics of print writing. However, some of the most noted literary figures, such as Henry James and John Milton, preferred dictation as their mode of composition. Writers with and without disabilities have long used dictation for composing. But because dictation was one such a common practice, few writers left specific reflections on this composing process. Today, it seems that exploring writers' reflective experiences with dictation and VRT will further equip us to train college writers to compose orally on a computer. Doing so will also allow us to create our own training pedagogies for this composing medium.