Composing technology: A critical rhetorical analysis of dox on the Writing Program Administrators LISTSERV



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Digital writing technologies are a reality for composition and rhetoric, rather than a theoretical exercise or problem for the future. Despite a social and institutional context that includes rapidly changing tools, texts, and genres, the discipline of composition and rhetoric has continued to treat technology conservatively in its mainstream scholarly discourses. After reviewing literature in composition and rhetoric and computers and composition, in this study I interrogate the ideological status of technology in the discipline of composition and rhetoric at the level of its informal, ephemeral textual material. I rely on doxa, or the commonplace ideological warrant, in order to describe and examine disciplinary assumptions about technology. To explore this, I conducted a critical rhetorical analysis, purposively sampling technology-related messages on the Writing Program Administrators’ LISTSERV (WPA-L).

Finding 26 specific technology-specific doxa distributed among sampled threads, this study focuses on four clusters of ideas: participants’ belief that technology is extraneous to the work and theoretical program of composition and rhetoric; participants’ understandings of the relative newness or importance of digital writing technologies, participants’ discursive empowerment of technologies , and participants’ reliance on instrumentalist conceptions of digital technologies, describing them primarily in terms of augmentation. Findings from this research illustrate that WPA-L discourse about technology is motivated by an instrumentalist conception of writing, deterministic philosophies of technology, and is often distracted from critical engagement with technology by its emphasis on student and instructor agency.

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