Not only a theoretical exercise, this Bakhtinian retrospective asks computers and writing practitioners to critically question overt and covert roles of public policy (Agenda and Spellings) for educators and students in computer and composition classrooms.
National Information Infrastructure Initiative:
Fifteen Years Later
Vice President Al Gore introduced the NII and GII at the 1994 World Telecommunication Development Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Clinton-Gore administration thus signaled to Americans and the world the importance of implementing technological infrastructure (the physical facilities to transmit, store, process, and display voice, data and images through items such as televisions, computers, switches and disks, and so on). To accomplish these goals, the NII seeks to motivate legislature, community stakeholders, and citizens in action towards the building and maintaining national information infrastructure. The teaching of digital technologies forwards these goals, as does establishing an interagency Information Infrastructure Task Force, a private sector Advisory Council on the NII, and strengthening and streamlining the Federal Communications and information policy-making agencies with resources as needed. This emphasis on technlogical growth, especially in education, continues into the Obama administration.
Michael Holquist suggests in his Introduction to The Dialogic Imagination that Bakhtin understood that novels couldn’t be studied with the same frame of ideas about language or style as other genres (xxix). To read the Agenda--from the genre of policy as a literary text--might be problematic. The literary genre intensifies language. Holquist concedes that Bakhtin names the “novel” as “whatever force is at work within a given literary system to reveal the limits, the artificial constraints of that system (xxxi).
How might public policy promote a fiction—a story in search of a place in history about technological literacy in America? Democracy, prosperity, and security will follow investments in technology infrastructure. Public policy is not yet history; it exists digitally or on paper as much (or as little) as a novel, yet it is a force or fiction that can shape the public imagination. These policies are written precisely to become histories. These fictions expand beyond novels to epics that shape cultural history and the daily lives of millions. We can look again at the impact of the policies of the GI Bill and Morrill Land Grant Act to channel the energy of mass mobilizations of post-war families into education and a vision of nationhood. Those policies instantiate the ideological grand narrative of the good life vis a vis upward mobility through education. By attempting to blend the seemingly irreconcilable genres of public policy and creative writing, we can imagine the mutable similarities. Bakhtin describes the genre of the narrative and compositional aspects Greek adventure-romance (Dialogic, p. 104). Bakhtin enforces the characteristics of the narrative. As the novel can act as moral persuasion, public policy, too, can act as a fiction. That is to say, policy judges or guides human behavior along a spectrum of acceptance to rejection.
Bakhtin might agree that, as with literary writing, the Agenda develops on the “boundary between two consciousnesses, two subjects”: between text and context. (Speech Genres, p.106). The Agenda is complex in its purpose to influence readers and to make itself a material reality. In the case of the Agenda, readers should embrace technology and its purported proliferation of democracy. In this language system, the text, the Agenda is an utterance because it possesses two characteristics: a plan or intention and an expected realization (Speech Genres, p.104). The Agenda’s call for global technologization is both as internally persuasive and externally authoritative.
A Bakhtinian reading benefits readers by its sensitivity to the plurality of experience and by its uses of metalanguage. Such a reading focuses on language that must not be regimented but allowed to float and signify. These are qualities not usually attributed to government writing. The Agenda and its call for the incorporation of technology “speaks” from many voices to multiple audiences. The genre of bureaucratese can be read as a novel: Bakhtin isolates a quality of the novel: “Authorial speech, the speeches of narrators, inserted genres, the speech of characters are merely those fundamental compositional unities with whose help heteroglossia [raznorecie] can enter the novel” (Dialogic, p. 263 ). Not only a theoretical exercise, this Bakhtinian retrospective asks computers and writing practitioners to critically question overt and covert roles of public policy (Agenda and Spellings) for educators and students in computer and composition classrooms.