Richard Selfe calls upon the computers and writing community to share with the public what the educators in higher education are doing for learners and he insists that “Faculty should also 'push back' against the language that corporations and Washington bureaucrats are using to describe our work” (pg. 1). This Bakhtinian analysis “pushes back” as an act of discursive activism.
This Bakhtinian reading explored how public policy, such as the Agenda, can be analyzed and read as a literary fiction that stimulates public imagination. Huot recognized that the issues in the Spellings Report related to access, affordability, quality, and accountability in education stimulate the imagination and action: “They are not only to public policymakers charged with providing a blueprint for reform, but to all of us who, working with our students and educational programs, desire their success as well as the success of our home institutions” (pg. 513).
The social implications of Bakhtin’s literary theories in the Dialogic Imagination can be applied to the genre of public policy Agenda for Action of the NII. What we to do as computers and writing specialists can be guided by critical re-reading of the Agenda, Spellings, and policy on the horizon as noted by Selber, Huot, and the Selfes. In other words, we, as members of a discipline, can continue to pay attention to provocative frames. Bakhtin argued that we cannot know anything without dialogue between two subjectivities. Monologic discourse is false. Public policy often has engaged issues of computers and writing with a unitary voice to influence the public imagination. Thus, the Agenda, as public policy, wields power in the imaginations of readers and decision-makers by its use of externally authoritative and internally persuasive rhetoric, heteroglossia, appearance of unitary language, and dialogism. When considering the agency that computers and writing stakeholder have in designing curricula and using various technologies, let us look at how meaning is constructed in unexplored genres that influence many of the decisions and funding of our pedagogy. We have agency to interpret, reframe, design, and critique public policy.
Bakhtin reiterates us that language is never unitary: “It goes without saying that these languages differ from each other not only in their vocabularies; they involve specific forms for manifesting intentions, forms for making conceptualizations and evaluation concrete. And even the very language of the writer (the poet of the novelist can be taken as professional jargon on a par with professional jargons” (p. 289). Equally, the Agenda, with its bureaucratic basis, has its intentions as a “blueprint for government action” (p. 14) for “all Americans” to endorse. It does not primarily serve as an intra-governmental document, but as a document to the public to encourage awareness and “action” towards technology use. Leaders, community stakeholders, citizens, and educators are all mentioned as participants in this initiative.
This Bakhtinian reading has continued C. Selfe and R. Selfe’s call for paying attention to critical technological literacy as it is promoted in policy documents. Here is where agency can be actualized. Administrators, community leaders, politicians, students, and educators are often some of the intended audiences of these documents. Intentions of rhetorical acts, initiatives, and bills can be analyzed rigorously. These analyses can be correlated with funding and mandates that motivate educators and scholars to incorporate digital technology with writing technologies. The analysis of policy documents regarding critical technological literacy can update the computers and writing community. R. Selfe calls upon this community to share with the public what the educators in higher education are doing for learners, and he declares that “Faculty should also 'push back' against the language that corporations and Washington bureaucrats are using to describe our work” (pg.1). This Bakhtinian analysis “pushes back” as an act of discursive activism.