The Rhetorical Institutions of WAC/WID

Longo, Britt, and Grabill’s chapters helped me think through several aspects of my final project, including a combination of Activity Theory, Foucaultian archaeological approach combined with critical theory, and Longo’s (2006) five themes of discourse as a framework for reconsidering the WAC Academy and examining participants’ teaching artifacts and curations. I also started to think about how postmodern mapping (Grabill) could be used to represent various moments in the work.

Application of texts to my final project ideas:

Activity Theory as a framework for

  • (re)considering the WAC Academy as a boundary zone and micro-institution (Porter et al. 2000) along with its participant(s), communities, artifacts, activities, objects, and outcomes.
  • (re)examining teaching artifact(s) as cultural, workplace tool(s) used to mediate action, knowledge, and writing (Carter, 2007) within specific contexts (class, discipline, institution)
    • Objective, cultural, cultural properties?
    • Reflections of communities, rules, activities, objects…
    • Externalization of internalized action
    • Level(s) of activity
      • Activity towards an objective carries out by community (Why?)
      • Action towards a specific goal carried out by an individual with possible goals (What?)
      • Operation structure of an activity (How?)
  • Motivated activit(ies) directed at object/goal (what object/goal?)
  • Rules? Division of effort/labor?

This framework can be used to begin the post-structural process of illuminating the transparency of writing (Russell, 1990), the teaching of writing, and ideas of writing and disciplines.


Utilizing Foucaultian archaeological approach combined with critical theory and Longo’s (2006) five themes of discourse as an object of study to examine teaching artifacts from WAC Academy participants and their curations. Each of the objects below could be considered in the application of Activity Theory to the WAC Academy.

This process will lead to questions like: How do their artifacts and curations reflect the idea of discourse as a struggle mediated by culture (Longo)? How is it that particular statement(s) appeared rather than another (Foucault cited in Longo)?


I can use postmodern mapping as a tool to determine various moments and perspectives in the WAC Academy, participants’ artifacts, and the curation of their artifacts. Postmodern mapping can be used to

  • (re)consider relationships, development, activities, contexts, objects, artifacts, objects, and outcomes;
  • (re)conceptualize identities, and communities; and
  • empower participants to reflect on their experiences.

This approach will also encourage questions like

  • How were these tools created and transformed during development of activities during the WAC Academy?
  • What are evidences of the culture(s) that tools carry with them? The historical remains of their development?
  • How are these artifacts an accumulation and transmission of social knowledge? What is that social knowledge
  • How may these artifacts/tools influence external behavior and mental functioning of individual(s)/group(s) in writing classrooms?


Britt argues for critique aimed at the middle ground of micro-institutions as it extends beyond organizational borders by “attending to the power relations inherent in particular spatial and material conditions” (p.135). Her discussion includes a discussion of institutional critique (Porter et al., 2000) as a labeling strategy that calls attention to power by characterizing organizations as kinds of institutions – powerful entities and, therefore, possible sites for critical analysis and change. The resulting institutional critique is a fundamentally pragmatic effort to use rhetorical means to improve institutional systems by examining structure from spatial, visual, and organizational perspectives; seeks gaps or cracks as paces where resistance and change are possible; and undermines the binary between theory and empirical research by engaging in situated theorizing and relating that theorizing through stories of change and attempted change.





Music is my survival technology

I had so much fun creating memes and a Prezi as a response to Del Hierro’s chapter, “Stayin’ on Our Grind: What Hiphop Pedagogies Offer to Technical Writing”, that I wrote the whole post on it. Oops.  But connections to Edwards’s chapter are easily made.

I think it would be incredibly interesting to explore how the Critical Hiphop Pedagogy (CHHP; p. 254) and the five main elements of hiphop (p. 253) align with and/or could be made richer in conjunction with the five basic tenants of Critical Race Theory (CRT; p. 383-384).  It could also be fruitful to  compare how certain digital booklets and ciphers (that are create by others and examined by the class and/or those created by members of the class) socially construct different definitions of racism (p. 384) and how they are [not] examples of the crucial relationships between language and action (p. 384) and/or race, racism, and power (p. 382) from CRT.  If I had more time, I would like to apply the various aspects of CRT to the Activity Theory framework I applied to CHHP.  Good, nerdy fun.  🙂

Check out my Prezi to see how Questlove is a technical communicator, Beyonce embodies rhetorical velocity, and remix allows Biggie. Also see how Childish Gambino directly addresses the link between hiphop and technology and Activity Theory is used to think through CHHP.

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ECU’s Human Library as a Narrative Method for Creating Space for BFT & FDS Narratives

While reading, I started thinking about how ECU’s Human Library reflects and could be enhanced by many of the ideas from these chapters. The connections to Jones and Walton’s chapter seem obvious.  As the Human Library event website explains, this is a space for storytelling: “It is meant to a open up a dialog about stereotypes on campus, showing that we are all humans with a special story”. It is open to all as you don’t have to be an ECU student or staff member to participate, which could be a possible answer to Moeller’s push for tech comm’s attention to public rhetorics (p. 309). The Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 4.07.52 PM.png(de)constructive, social justice aspects of the event align well with Moore and Moeller’s texts as the library is meant “to basically ‘label’ that person and then have the person break down that stereotype during their conversations with people”. These authors emphasis on bodies also reflects one the more important (and obvious) aspects of the event: the presence of actual bodies

One contribution TPC could offer to an event like this is encouraging participants’ everyday experiences as rich in narrative possibilities. The site includes examples like experiences when one was othered, like with health-related issues, family matters, religion, globl understanding, or being a part of a minority group (email from Kathryn Webb). Including an option of one’s workplace as setting for stories and the textual artifacts found within them could also be possible starting places life stories. As Jones and Walton indicate, written documents and records “undergo a process of legitimization… that is inextricably connected to” historicity (p. 351). In this context, the event reflects how Moeller’s FDS is a way to “augment the terms and confront the limits of the ways we understand human diversity, materiality of the body, multiculturalism and the social formations that interpret bodily differences” (from Garland-Thomas 2004 p. 75 in Moeller on p. 307) and opening possibilities of new epistemological horizons (p. 265).

The Human Library already reflects some of Moore’s tenets of BFT and can offer new or different ways to (re)think about the event. This event values lived experience as a criterion of meaning making in its focus on storytelling. The human books are not asked to site their sources, only to speak from their experiences. Additionally, the use of dialogue in assessing knowledge claims (275) reflects the Human Library’s values as the website directly states, “This event is meant to open up a dialog about stereotypes on campus, showing that we are all humans with a special story”. Event coordinators and participants could also use BFT as a new framework for understanding traditional problems and reseeing conventional relationships (p. 282). Also, this theory’s ethics of caring and personal accountability could be used as strategies for including a broader range of voices, including those of black females, and new kinds of stories.

A useful way to frame the event for students who come to “read” the human book could come from one of “technical communication’s primary concerns” as articulate by Moeller: helping students negotiate the varying rhetorical waters in and outside of the university (p.311). Such approaches could encourage students to go into the “library” with rhetorical questions and/or reflect on the interactions they participate in through a rhetorical lens.

Overall, the Human Library could be a space to encourage reflexivity for ethical merit of actions (p. 343) and consider issues like how knowledge is created and legitimized from a cultural-historic perspective (p. 350-351). I am continuing the think about how Jones and Walton’s heuristic could be used to develop a heuristic for “human books” to develop their narratives. To do so, I am also considering how it could be applied to on my own story (below).  I would also encourage everyone in class to identify their story and sign up to be a human book.

[I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to fit in this post. I had to end somewhere, so I hope this makes sense. 🙂 ]

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Thanks again, Capitalism!

Each chapter in this week’s readings reminds us of the complex contexts in which we live and work while contributing to our understandings of the responsibilities and ethics of the never transparent role of technical communicators. The articulation lens that Slack, Miller, and Doak argue for and apply to technical communication, which constructs the role of technical communicator as one of (re)articulating meaning in relationship to power. Dilger’s discussion of usability draws on Nielson (2000) and Donoghue (2002) while building an argument for a cultural studies for technical communication to assist communicators with dilemma like the tension that exists between trying to simultaneously build trust with and anticipating needs of users. Moses and Katz explore the underlying, purposive-relational ideology of email as a cultural practice that blurs the boundaries of work and play, replacing traditional values and creating a culture of people who feel more and more dependent on technology. (Thanks again, Capitalism!)

Both Dilger and Moses-Katz discuss the reality of the Internet as a commodity, “a commercial product ultimately grounded in capitalistic goals” (p.75), and it seems to the perfect example of Donoghue’s ideas on extreme usability: The ease, comfort, expedience, and simplicity of sites like Google allow for “natural”, friction-free experiences in users accessing knowledge and other commodities. Such ease leaves us at least a little lazier and wondering if we really wanted what we bought in the first place! Technologies like email may seem to remove barriers and burdens like embodiment, but Moses and Katz show how the same dominant forces and hierarchies remain in tact. One example of this that came to mind while reading Chapter 3 is ECU email addresses.

While one’s email address may not seem to reveal more than a name and affiliation (and possibly a location), ECU has created a system for assigning email addresses that reflects the institution’s hierarchy at least to a certain degree. (Of course, just the affiliation may reflect many cultural values, but I have decided not to go into those.) The most obvious example is the discernment between faculty and student’s addresses because the word student is spelled out in student email addresses ( while faculty don’t ( Much more is revealed in many faculty and student email addresses. For example, because of my student email address, you can tell that the first year I was enrolled at ECU was 1997. This means that I have been in school at ECU a LONG time, which could indicate various negative and/or positive things. One could assume that I have either been a really good student (because I have returned to school) or a really bad student (because I never graduated from school).

The absence of certain elements in faculty also conveys certain information. Because ECU started to insert the year one started employment at ECU around 2014-2015, you can tell that I have worked at ECU for at least three or four years, which could indicate that I am a good employee (because I have maintained employment for several years) or an employee who lacks motivation (because I have not professionalized enough to move on to a new or better position or university). Also, because I only have a K after my last name, you can assume that Flinchbaugh is not a common last name at our university. The university uses last and first names to assign email addresses on a first come basis. If your last name-first letter combination has already been used by someone else, they use the first two letters of your name ( Therefore, those people with very common last names may have the first several letters of their name (

While I think this is a different approach to “life as a project” (p. 77) than what the authors had in mind, it does reveal more than one may assume.

Feminist Disability Studies and Environmental Justice in Tech Comm

Smyser-Fauble and Johnson Sackey’s chapters fit together well within this text. Both place the material, environmental, and linguistic next to the ideological, pedagogical, and political, pointing to the importance of milti- and inter-disciplinary work. Both deal with issues of public intellectuals with Smyser-Fauble pushing for the enactment of such identities and Johnson Sackey considering the intellectual commodities involved in “doing science” (210-211). Both highlight the possibilities and challenges that present themselves to those involved in collaboration along with the tensions that come with a local/global divide. Both speak to the importance of context in different rhetorical situations, begging us to look at what is going on around us and put people at the center of our work. Both can be seen as responses to Grabill and Simmons’ call to develop ways through which we can push power issues into the foreground of tech comm (221). Although I realize that they authors would argue no, I can’t help but wonder if the bottom line of both is the dollar $ign.

Smyser-Fauble’s feminist disability framework (methodology and approach) articulates essential questions about accessibility and usability that push tech communicators and their teachers past the ambiguous language of our common comfort zones in legal literacies (99), universal design (103), and physical accessibility (100) into possibilities and responsibilities of social accessibility (117), inclusivity (119), and positioning students as agents of social change (119). While I greatly appreciate her ideas on the important of acting as public intellectuals (99 & 119) and responsible rhetoric activity (99) along with the two steps she offers for working to remove institutional barriers to inclusion and accessibility (120-121), I was hoping for and expecting more.

Throughout her chapter, she calls out broad (physical accessibility on page 117) and more specific (lists of common teaching techniques for accommodation on page 113) moves as “not enough”. And I agree with the author that they are not enough and tech comm seems perfectly situated to think with students about these issues, which is probably why I was looking forward to guidance on some ways that work toward consideration of “enough”. While I understand that part of her argument is that whatever “enough” is is context dependent, and she very well may be responding to the concerns credited to Agboka on page 204 of Johnson Sackey’s chapter. Although she doesn’t use Agboka to build her argument, it seems that she could use his and Johnson Sackey’s ideas of the various aspects of locale (204-205) to build a stronger argument for and construction of a feminist disability heuristic that could be used to respond to local situations in context.

I thought she might at least venture to imagine how ideas from the “readily available, easy to use, understandable” heuristic (118) could be reworked to reflect ideas from her feminist disability approach. That being said, the suggestions she offers are flexible and could be adapted to fit a variety of context, so they can serve as a good starting place. I would be interested to see how Smyser-Fauble’s approach could benefit from being put in conversation with Frost’s apparent feminism and Cox’s queer theory in tech comm.

Johnson Sackey’s discussion surrounding Keller’s concept of doing science peaked my interest in how it could be connected to Carter’s (2007) ideas on ways of knowing, doing, and writing in the disciplines. The implications and barriers of a doing science approach creates for issues of social justice remind me of challenges that are typical in WAC/WID work. As Keller reminds us, “sharing a language means sharing a conceptual universe” (Keller, 2001, 136 on p. 211). But sharing a language also creates access to what are otherwise intellectual commodities available to certain (and not all) people. As a classic equation of ECON courses, increased production/access without increased demand decreases the value of a commodity. I am left wondering if this calculation is what these chapters are really about…

Discussion: Ethics, Contexts, Evaluation, & Genre

<created with Mr. Sterling James>

Part 1: Poster Creation

The class is divided into four groups, and each group is assigned a chapter from the readings.

Use the materials provided to collaboratively create a poster about your chapter with your group. Each poster should include the following elements:

  • Key terms and concepts,
  • At least two deep questions,
  • At least one golden quote, and
  • An image that represent the main ideas (of the chapter).

Page numbers may be useful points of reference, if you would like to include them. These are just some ideas of what to include. If you have other ideas of what is relevant to your chapter, feel free to include more.

After you are done, find a space in the room to display your masterpiece.

Part 2: Gallery Walk

Each person will receive sticky notes. Take the time to walk around the room, taking in each group’s poster. On your sticky notes, write a response to each piece. You may want to respond to one of the questions the group included, ask your own question(s), make a connection to other chapters or ideas, or comment on something you find interesting on the poster. You could also respond to someone else’s sticky note.

Before the end of the Gallery Walk, be sure to return to your poster to read others’ comments.

Part 3: Activity Reflection

As a whole group, we will reflect on the activity and readings. Questions we may consider include:

  • What interesting things did you notice as you read the posters?
  • What common elements did we notice among the various posters? Chapters? What differences?
  • What was something you expected or didn’t expect?
  • What is a topic- or content-related question you want answered?
  • What did you already know about these topics? What is an assumption that you have made about this topic?
  • What could you do with what you learned from the readings? Our discussion? How could you apply this information within this class? Beyond?


Brainstorming for Brent!

On Thursday, Dr. Brent Henze (the author of chapter 12) will be visiting our class. What do we want to talk to him about?

  • What question do we have?
    • About his chapter?
    • About the text?
    • About his research?
    • About his teaching?
    • About his career?
    • About publishing?
    • About his experiences as a graduate student?
    • About TPC, in general?
  • What connections do we want to try to make?
  • What ideas do we want him to leave with?
  • Other ideas?