In a time when Web 2.0 technologies dominate web experiences, and when the media by and large sings the praises of the personal empowerment afforded by such technologies, it is important to bring a critical lens to the design of Web 2.0. Although there are many empowering and engaging features of user-driven content, this article explores the downside to template-driven design. Through tracing the decline of homepage web authoring (where users had control of visual design choices) alongside the rise of social networking sites (where users have little to no control over the visual design of their representation), I call for a renewed attention to the rhetoric of design.
In his “Web 2.0 How-to Design Guide,” Ben Hunt identifies the stylistic elements shared by Web 2.0 sites, including “star flashes,” circular badges reminiscent of sale price stickers. However, Hunt's approach to style is limited to cataloging surface features. A site designed using his guide would certainly look like Flickr, YouTube, or LibraryThing but might not employ the approach or functionality of those sites. While composition teachers can and should embrace Web 2.0, we must do so critically, by considering what Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner would call the “conceptual stand” of Web 2.0, its fundamentals of writer, reader, thought, language, and their relationships. This approach to style recognizes that separating style and substance, however convenient, is misleading. In this essay, I map the conceptual stand of Web 2.0, providing a structure for critically evaluating sites that claim the “2.0” moniker. Given these elements of Web 2.0 style, composition teachers can better understand, employ, and engage Web 2.0 in teaching and scholarship.
In our nascent digital culture, the traditional essayistic literacy that still dominates composition classes is outmoded and needs to be replaced by an intentional pedagogy of digital rhetoric which emphasizes the civic importance of education, the cultural and social imperative of “the now,” and the “cultural software” that engages students in the interactivity, collaboration, ownership, authority, and malleability of texts. My readings of Yancey, Balkin, Vaidhyanathan, Lanham, and Gee have enabled me to reconfigure my composition classroom as an emerging space for digital rhetoric. Through the calculated and sequenced introduction of ePortfolios, digital stories, on line games, Second Life, and blogs, all of which create a new digital infrastructure for my course and assignments, I am working to create a set of practices that work together to explore the ways in which writing instruction can change to meet a new digital imperative; as such, I attempt to use technology in my courses to re-create the contemporary worlds of writing that our students encounter everyday.
This article situates current theoretical, rhetorical, and ethical analyses of the net's most prominent social networking sites, MySpace and Facebook. It also discusses the implications of bringing these web sites into the classroom, comparing how students, teachers, and administrators use (and abuse) these spaces. Both MySpace and Facebook privilege a discourse based on the construction and representation of an identity. Rather than assert unique identities, these sites ask users to label and classify themselves according to many criteria, including age, religion, political leanings, hobbies, and interests. Users can then list others who share these labels or interests and request to “add them as friends.” MySpace and Facebook emphasize categories and aspects of popular culture that teenagers find important. They remediate the traditions of high school for the Web and by doing so greatly extend their reach. Many writing instructors wonder how these sites can be used to teach writing. How users represent themselves online could help students understand postmodern logics of identity construction and political engagement. However, there are dangers for teachers who create their own profiles and add their students as “friends.” Like chat and email, these forums undercut concepts of more conventional rhetorical spaces. They both contribute to and undermine student and faculty ethos, although students may not appreciate that their profiles might have a lasting negative impact. Despite the public nature of most profiles, users often denounce these “invasions” as blatant violations of their privacy. Perhaps teachers and scholars should work to protect the integrity of these spaces.
Web 2.0 challenges the artificial compartmentalization of research and writing that often characterizes instruction in composition classes. In Web 2.0, writing and researching activities are increasingly integrated both spatially and conceptually. This article contends that, with this integration, Web 2.0 technologies showcase how research and writing together participate in knowledge production. Through analyzing specific technologies that incorporate Web 2.0 features, including Wikipedia, JSTOR, ARTstor, and del.icio.us, this article argues that including Web 2.0 technologies in composition courses as objects of analysis and as writing and researching resources offers a means to bridge the gap between students’ online proficiencies and academic writing tasks.
With the development of free, online, interactive visualization tools, the field of information visualization—or infovis—is being opened to diverse users and uses, and particularly to novice users who want to visualize personally relevant information. Indeed, Web 2.0 is making infovis increasingly viable as a medium for organizing, exploring, analyzing, and creatively deriving meaning from the deluge of information that we face in our everyday lives. For writing teachers, new developments in information visualization bring valuable opportunities to enhance our students’ digital and critical competencies. Projects that ask students to visualize text, personal data, and social data can provide compelling entry points into Web 2.0, as students learn about existing tools and sources of data, create their own visualizations, and then analyze the insight that they and others can gain through seeing data represented visually. Incorporating infovis assignments into writing classes can help us reinvigorate some of our standard assignments, encourage students to think critically about the software they use, and provide new opportunities for the production of digital artifacts.
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