Through narrative, this work discusses the current theories of technology when applied to electronic (or digital) portfolios. Discussing six viable conclusions from theory, the author explores how such theories may allow us to consider further theoretical and practical questions about the use of eportfolios and our attempts at improving the pedagogy surrounding them. First, eportfolios are forms of technology beyond the text within them. That is, they are separate from the writing within them, which is already considered a technology (Bolter, 2001, p.14; Ong, 1988, p.81; Emig, 1977, p.123). Being tools, they are “labor-saving,” like any other tool (or machinery) and subject to theoretical concerns. Second, eportfolios may exist in a “standing reserve” state, as well as being an integral part of a larger structure. Third, eportfolios, as a technology, are subject to the same complex metaphors used to describe other technologies, which may account for our inability to effectively assess them. Fourth, the use eportfolios is governed through temporality, formed by a temporal techne (time-based/restricted system of production leading to an inevitable product). Students begin as “designers” and become “technicians” using a variety of methods or “techniques” along these stages. Fifth, eportfolios are, at first, instrumental, but, then, substantial, existing as tools for our use but then helping us to create new cultural systems. Sixth, eportfolios, as technologies, are subject to rhetorical contextualization, which may help us to explain the types of larger structures where they are located and the expectations of these structures.
Keywords: portfolios, electronic portfolios, digital portfolios, composition, the theory of technology, educational solutions, technology studies, composition pedagogy