I review the first 20 years of Computers and Composition, looking particularly at the expressed hopes for the potential of change in the emergence of new writing-classroom technologies. Hopes in the early issues of the journal focused on technology’s presumed potential for improved writing, teaching, and learning in the composition classroom; a later and recurrent hope was that by embracing technology, composition teachers would improve their status in the academy. Authors in recent issues looked less at the technology and much more through the technology, toward a more egalitarian and just society. I attempt, in this review, to locate these hopes in the context of professional and national cultures.
Drawing upon nearly a decade of experience, I describe the challenges and advantages of teaching composition with the Internet at Howard University; I also explore the implications for other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). First, I discuss the digital divide that has made it so difficult for many HBCU faculty members and students to access the Internet for composition courses. Next, I describe how my students and I succeeded in harnessing the Internet not only to practice high-level writing skills but to do cultural work: to establish online safe houses for African American English, to collaborate with White North Americans and Black South Africans, and to publish Afrocentric material on the Web. In closing, I identify the pedagogical strategies that turned the Internet into a productive tool for the students in my writing courses.
Technology does indeed matter to writing—and in significant ways. But how it matters can vary, depending on the particular technology, the habits and attitudes of the individual writer, and the context of learning and use. Here I employ a personal narrative ("a cyberwriter’s tale") to track my development as a writer over time—from handwriting to typewriting to cyberwriting—and to show how each new writing technology influenced practices and products. I argue finally for a cyborgian, posthumanist view of writing technologies. Such a view does not isolate the technological tool as an abstracted machine apart from human use, but insists on defining technology as use—as the human and machine working in concert (joined at the interface) and writing in a particular social, political, and rhetorical context.
I trace the evolution of computer support for writing centers and writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) programs. Calling attention to differences in the rate of adoption and in the type of technology favored by scholars in each area, I discuss their adoption of technology within the context of their varying instructional goals. I consider early work, beginning in the 1970s, in computer-aided instruction (CAI), the development of computer-based management tools, the growing importance of style- and grammar-analysis software, word-processing programs, electronic networks through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, and the rise of interest in using the World Wide Web to support the missions of writing centers and WAC programs. I conclude by speculating briefly on future directions for technological support for writing centers and WAC programs.
Early work in and about hypertext suggested dramatic potentials for the medium, primarily in the way it challenged notions of authorial control, linearity, and the status quo in general. This history of hypertext tended to portray contradicting archetypes or pure forms that concrete developments never fulfilled. We argue that hypertext has long been a cultural analogy rather than a simple enactment or fulfillment of desires. To assist in creating a more open, constructive vision of hypertext, we gather three differing but connected tropes for hypertext from this history: hypertext as kinship, hypertext as battlefield, and hypertext as rhizome. Although these tropes are only three among very many possibilities, we provisionally play them off one another to deconstruct and reconstruct hypertext theory and practice, and to demonstrate potentials for moving beyond archetypes in theorizing and practicing hypertext.
(I) "we would like to invite you to submit a manuscript"
(II) "we would very much like to see this genre of writing represented"
As the American University in Egypt moved toward a more prominent technology-mediated environment in 1996, the ambition of the English department to reach the cutting edge of technology had its shortcomings. With no sustained training and little technical support, the initial eagerness of most faculty members gradually waned. We realized that the availability of computers for the use of word processing software, email communication, and basic search tasks was one thing, but the use of the technology for teaching purposes was a more complex thing. Here I attempt to present the dynamics of a paradoxical situation that evolved from our institution’s ambition to integrate technology and the ensuing clash with departmental conceptual limitations in promoting such change. I explore my experiences and struggles negotiating such changes and analyze my pedagogical shifts within technological environments through a graphic design by Richard Mesnik.
We chronicle—in both an historical and bibliographic framework—the discussion of rhetorics of empowerment and disempowerment throughout the last 15 years, and we also examine the promises and perils of current trends in online teaching and learning, with a special emphasis on the role of universities in promoting distance education. This article addresses the question cui bono?, or who benefits from the rush to technologize teaching and learning? We address the extent to which the continued rush to technologize teaching and learning is a perilous return to a rhetoric of empowerment that as compositionists we must continue to interrogate critically; we question how, in an era of 24/7 learning, students may or may not benefit, and also how teachers may lose out, based on the increased workload and course management surrounding online learning.
In this article, I reconstruct the discussion of access within the field of computers and writing, articulate a notion of class that might be useful for work in the field, and revisit the issue of the digital divide. This reconstruction of access, class, and divides is linked by a heuristic framed by a rhetoric of the everyday that might guide research and intervention strategies. A rhetoric of the everyday makes visible the relationships between access and class, between the material and the rhetorical, and between and among other issues of identity. These relationships constitute a set of interfaces that work in computers and writing must navigate. To navigate them, we need to drill deep into intersections between materiality and activity, or into the infrastructure of inequality.
In this article I reflect on my teaching and scholarship with computers in secondary schools during the past 20 years. I chart how changing technology and changing expectations for technology shaped my teaching and student learning in the writing centers and classrooms where I have worked.
Keeping with the currency of the print-based journal, Print to Screen focuses on the themes found in the recent issues of Computers and Composition, and includes multimodal commentaries that explore and remediate relationships between print and screen.
Section Editor — Elizabeth Monske