Service Learning and Tech Comm: Mending the Disconnect Between ECU and Greenville

When thinking about today’s class and Dr. Beckerman asking the question “What is ECU”, I couldn’t help but agree with Juliana in her statement that the institution and the community are inextricably linked. In chapter 5, Britt states that “Technical communication is the means by which institutions define themselves and conduct their cultural work” (148). One of the connections I made here is the culture of East Carolina itself. East Carolina University prides itself as an institution dedicated to giving back to the community. One way that students become what many like to call ‘better citizens’ is by performing public service (also known as service work). The relationship that ECU has with service work within the surrounding communities (and especially within Greenville) highly reflects the mission constructed by those who established and gave meaning to the institution. From the mission statement of the school itself to how we implement ideas of giving back into the minds of the student population, East Carolina is defined as being a college dedicated to serving others.

“To be a national model for student success, public service and regional transformation, East Carolina University…” (Note: I got this from the ECU Website. J)

I have always been extremely interested in the relationship between ECU and Greenville, and the above excerpt from ECU’s mission statement is written in a way that communicates a sense of privilege amongst students and faculty. One of the reasons I have mentioned the mission statement and the culture surrounding ECU is because I am concerned with how East Carolina communicates this message to those outside of its institution. Here, I am specifically referring to those who are amongst some of the surrounding communities that we are so adamant on assisting.

In what ways does ECU culture communicate itself through writing and practice, and what kind of meaning is taken from it?

I would like to begin by discussing how our mission statement communicates to outsiders just how much we are set on building well-rounded students. The idea is that we can potentially better the world based on the fact that these well-educated students are enabled – with their education, of course – to go out and make change; however, the way in which we embody being a part of ECU culture and this institution as a whole can be detrimental in 1) how ECU is perceived amongst locals and 2) how students interact with different publics. This notion comes directly from the student service learning programs that we implement and the constant placement/withdrawal of students in these programs within the community.

Figures concerning the demographics of Greenville, NC residents shows that approximately 56% of Greenville is Caucasian (37% is African American) while the rest of the population is comprised of resident with a diverse set of ethnic backgrounds (website link is found at the end of this post). I suspect that the only reason the population is this way is because of ECU, being that it is a predominately white institution AND causes the influx of students. Because ECU is in Greenville, the town is expected to fulfill the standards of the institution. Here is where we can potentially find a problem: students who are constantly put in the position of helping the community puts the community itself in a place where the marginalized are expected to receive help but are then suddenly put at a disadvantage when the students who assist them move on. To provide these communities with aid that is inconsistent sends a message to the general public that ECU is more concerned with upholding its image than it is with the residents and natives of Greenville (excluding those associated with the university).

What I’m getting at here is (I hope I haven’t been rambling) that I wonder about how the culture, goals, and mission of our institution can be revised to omit that sense of privilege which comes along with acts of service learning. In chapter 8, Henry (when speaking of re-writing workplace culture) basically says that in order to revise workplace cultures we need to first review and make changes to administrative structures (214). Seeing that the provided scenario is quite similar to that of a workplace culture, I wonder about how we as technical communicators can begin to mend this disconnect between ECU and Greenville. We send students out into these communities (or in most cases, areas considered to be the ‘other side of the tracks’) to help ‘better’ them, but many of these students have not been trained to be sensitive to the needs and circumstances of others nor will they ever do work in these environments once they leave here. As someone who came to ECU on scholarship and completed countless hours of service to a number of different organizations, I have seen firsthand that although the organizations appreciate the help that our students provide it can sometimes be frustrating to have to constantly switch out employees, volunteers, etc. AND deal with the large number of personalities that come along with these individuals. The services that we provide sometimes feel selfish in a sense that they are regarded as nothing more than ‘jobs’ and ‘tasks’ when most times they are realities to individuals within surround communities.

How can we change ECU’s mission, culture, and (overall) institution to be more accommodating to its surrounds in terms of cultural work?

Demographic Link: http://www.areavibes.com/greenville-nc/demographics/

week 15

Longo’s work in exploring how best to create a rhetorical research study of institutional/corporate writing is actually proving useful in two of the three projects I am working on this semester. The idea of using cultural studies isn’t really something that would immediately come to mind when working with a lot of technical communication subject and artifacts, but over the course of the semester, it’s become ever clearer that each corporation, institution, and organization is absolutely its own culture, so when you can finally start seeing these spaces in that way, then it seems much more obvious that cultural studies would be an excellent way of examine their communication practices, and we also established this semester, that because of the structural nature of these spaces/cultures, their communication practices within their own systems, and those they engage other such spaces with (even the public), is technical communication. It’s all weighted with specific protocols, measures for adequacy and success, language, standards for interaction with outsiders, and methods of establishing, translating, and transmitting value.

These ideas are particularly interesting when one considers the many differences between the technical writing by and for the public in maker spaces, DIY blogs, videos, and other media, and even in handwritten instructions offered on family recipe cards, or laundry instructions for problematic machines, or the proper way to walk their dog for dogsitters. Though most of what we have been working with focuses on political, economic, and industrial cultures, I believe it could be fascinating if not ultimately useful to conduct research on the hows and whys of individual public structures of technical communication.

……………Tangent time…….I can remember seeing handwritten instructions left for guests down in Duck and Corolla  when I was a housekeeping inspector that covered everything from trash procedures to security protocols to rules for interacting with the local flora and fauna. I was always struck by how different they seemed to be from place to place, and that those written by owners from New York or New Jersey seemed to be very differently worded from those written by owners from Texas or Arizona, or the fireman from New York who left especially detailed instruction for things like the fire suppression system, the smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, and even evacuation plans that covered fires breaking out in numerous parts of the property. I also remember having to help more than one set of guests figure out what they were doing wrong in following the instructions or needing info consistently left out, like where the breaker boxes were, and how to vacuum the house before leaving when they could only find the hose and attachments and didn’t want to go out and buy a vacuum (the vacuum system was built into the walls, so you attached the hose through a special panel in the walls of each room)…….

…..If I had had these courses before I quit that job, I could have done some very interesting research into public technical communication documents. So many documents shaped by embodied experiences influenced by the jobs they did or the struggles they had faced in figuring things out. So many different cultural value systems set forth through the construction of technical documents………

One method suggested by Longo for applying cultural studies to the technical writing practices of institutional/organizational spaces is “reflect(ing) on the following five themes: the object of study is discourse, the object is studied in its cultural context, the object is studied as historically situated, the object is ordered by the researcher for the purposes of the study, and, therefore, the most important relationship in the study is between the object and the researcher”  (124). It’s interesting how this works into bias, but suggests also methods of reducing bias. In working with technical documents created by organization that have spent decades or centuries inundating the public with proper protocols (CDC, WHO, and ARC) in times of fear and crisis, its important to consider their patterns of inclusion and exclusion, how legal issues and politics have infiltrated technical discourses within such organizations, and how that effects the rhetorical choices technical writers make when drafting documents, especially protocol documents.

My apologies for only writing about Longo, but I didn’t take use an app to take notes on the other chapters, and don’t have the book at hand 😦 Perhaps I can do the rest before Thursday. Cheers!

Hardy – Week 15 Reading Response – Longo and Britt

Early on in Longo’s chapter, I anticipated Foucault coming into the conversation about knowledge and power, and of course he didn’t disappoint. Longo uses Foucault’s ideas to situate technical writing in “systems of knowledge and power” that is “incomplete if the idea of culture is limited within one organization” (113). This view is particularly important when taking into consideration the invisibility of “good” technical writing and the ways in which it limits, excludes, or marginalizes “other” knowledges and cultures. As technical writers or teachers of technical communication, we should critique and interrogate what knowledges are privileged in the field, or rather which ones are legitimated, and look more closely at how technical writing practices “work to conquer users’ naive know-how and reformulate” practices into discourse (117). This idea of reformulation struck me as interesting because I previously encountered it in my studies of discourse analysis, particularly Ian Hutchby’s analysis of radio talk shows. In his study, he looks at how caller and host negotiate power relations, and one way hosts maintain power is through reformulating the caller’s agenda by glossing or summarizing it. In other words, the host tells the caller what he/she has already said but sets the caller up in a defensive position. I can definitely see how this same idea applies to technical writing. Power, in Hutchby’s view (drawing off of Foucault as well), is not a pre-existing feature of discourse; it emerges through the negotiation of power relations. In a way, technical writers appropriate or prescribe certain discourses that shape the users’ experience, therefore disregarding or avoiding taking into account the users’ native discourses. One way that we can address this problem is to limit the object of inquiry within a cultural studies research design. I thoroughly enjoyed Longo’s piece but, as the title suggests, she discusses possible approaches only. The application of such approaches are not entirely clear. Still, I think she offers some insightful ways to tackle manifestations of power and knowledge in technical writing in a practical and useful way by exploring  “ those silences, absences, and exclusions” that are hidden within the dominant discourse (126).

Britt offers some interesting ideas for thinking about how institutions operate within a larger theoretical framework. In short, she argues that technical writers should take the time to be familiar with social and cultural theories that can help them understand how institutions are in some ways “cultural agents entangled with other institutions (147). I immediately thought of the writing center as a microinstitution and its relationship to the larger academic institution as well as the more local composition classrooms, which is something I would do well to further explore later. Another thing I was drawn to was Britt’s definition of technical communication as “the means by which institutions define themselves and conduct their cultural work” (148). Wow. This makes so much sense. Institutions are able to develop, maintain, and reinforce their agenda through the technical writing they produce. Agenda might be the key word here. I think this is a way that certain institutional structures take shape; their discourse is brought into being through the genres and textual apparatus they use on a daily basis. I found Britt’s chapter less engaging than Longo’s; it was more of food for thought, in my opinion. Perhaps I didn’t see her contribution as valuable as Longo’s, but I do feel as though her work illuminates a conservative attitude toward preserving and upholding particular cultural agendas.

Race in Technical Communication

Last week’s readings are exactly what I’m hoping that the broader field of Technical Communication will take up and really consider. In fact, it’s what I want to be a part of. Each chapter takes on a different perspective regarding the relationship between race and the field. Del Hierro’s chapter on hip hop offers us a set of methods that technical communication is missing out on using. Hip Hop has been taken up for some specific kinds of technical communication–education and marketing are two prominent examples. Its utility in these spaces is supported with plenty of research and evidence to point to its efficacy. However, these are also spaces where cultural studies and cultural rhetorics have most likely always been integrated and involved, I think. The topic may not be pervasive or widely accepted, but educators have long explored opportunities for connections between their scholarship and culture. This is a great example of that at work: http://livestream.com/schomburgcenter/events/4990989 In the example, Chris Edmin illustrates how hip hop pedagogy and cultural insight in general can serve both pedagogical and evaluative purposes. If you watch, pay close attention to the performances by the students near the beginning of the talk (around 12-13 mins) and then again toward the middle when he talks about what that could do in a classroom (I think around 46-48ish mins).

I also think the critical race conversation is important to have too. As I mentioned briefly in class, black people have conversations in their homes all.the.time about how their race shapes their professional identity. How one chooses to speak, or what Pandora station you listen to, or how you dress can all be called into question. If  you engage in a way that is too raced, you’ll be labeled unprofessional and jeopardize your job. One quote that  was particularly interesting to me is when Edwards talked about the social construction tenet of CRT. She says, “social construction means that those in power in a society invent thoughts and structures when convenient. Social construction allows for those in power to pick and choose what is important and ignore facts when necessary” (383).  This resonated so much because one of the most frustrating experiences is the gut knowledge that the rules just changed because of you. I’m keeping this chapter in my back pocket because I’m sure it’ll come in handy.

Critical Power Tools

Longo begins this week’s reading by stating: “Good technical writing is so clear that it is invisible” (111). Intrigued, I followed the reasoning into cultural rhetoric, an admittedly new realm for me. So many elements of the logic presented made sense. I found myself wishing this section had fallen earlier in the course, but then caught myself. Would I have had the frame of reference to not only understand it, but apply it? Probably not. In many ways, it was a yardstick to measure how I’d grown intellectually over this semester. The examples, too, brought home the impact of power dynamics and decision making processes. The Challenger example carried a lot of weight in her argument. The question remained: what relevance did technical writing play there? The reports were clear that the conditions were ripe for failure; however, the company bowed to the desires of the institution (NASA). As I contemplated that issue, Longo goes on to answer it. “If technical writing is the mediator between technology and what we have come to term users, technical writing practices work to conquer users’ naïve know-how and reformulate these uneducated practices into scientific discourse that can partake of the cultural power residing in scientific knowledge” (117). Knowledge exists in a context…and good technical writing is invisible. With the facts in hand, NASA chose to launch the shuttle. From hindsight, debate has ensued, but it’s easy to point the finger in this situation. By this brings into prospect the limits of study. On page 124, Longo elaborates her view of cultural studies calling for the consideration of five points: “the object of the study is discourse, the object is studied in its cultural context, the object is studied as historically situated, the object is ordered by the researcher for the purposes of the study, and, therefore, the most important relationship in the study is between the object and the researcher.” For me, the most important part of a failed experience in anything is the conversation examining the lesson’s learned. If the situation can be reflected on as a learning experience, it is not a failure. Having said that, consequences are ugly things, especially in light of something like this.

In Chapter 5, Britt takes up the thought process examining an insurance company’s rejection letters in hopes of reducing the cost of appeals. For me, this was particularly fascinating. It brought into perspective tone, syntax, and reader interpretation as a lens for communication. I know the purpose of the chapter was to discuss institutionalization of the companies and how to engage with their data (however limited and incomplete due to the narrowness of the collection field); however, what kept pulling me back was how the letters were deconstructed for effectiveness. How the research determined how to incorporate the legally required bulk information in a way that included personalization and specifics to the individual cases made a great deal of sense to me. Of course, it also left me wondering how effective the new policies were to reduce the appeals process, but that just shows me how much I enjoyed the logistics of the scenario. Again, I wished this chapter had been sooner, but I doubted I’d have been able to fully appreciate the information shared.

Jim Henry’s Writing Workplace Cultures – Technically Speaking left me somewhat confused yet enlightened at the same time. One key thing that really caught my attention was the idea of “writerly sensibilities” in relation to language and our interpretation of reality as they “shape discourse and as discourses shape them” (203). This term is quite unfamiliar to me and maybe this is because of such limitation of the institutional culture experienced in academic structure that Henry notes on page 202. To try to get a better handle on what was going on here, I looked up (good old Google) first what the definition of sensibility was as I think the ‘writerly’ was causing some confusion. Sensibility, according to the Merriam-Webster, is the “ability to feel and understand emotions” or the “kinds of feelings [we] have when [we] hear, see, read, or think about something.” Thus, paired with “writerly,” this intensifies or merely signifies the meaning, doing, understanding, and practicing of writing itself. Taking it into the technical communication realm, Henry references Gee, Hull, and Lankshear view of the new work order being “largely about trying to create new social identities or new kinds of people” (206). The latter of that quote calls for a pretty interesting discussion point – what does he mean by ‘new kinds of people?’ in the classroom? In workplace? Intellectually? Does he mean new ways f thinking? Professionally?

Speaking of institutions and that academic culture, I really liked how he addressed this shift of composition from production to process as he so rightly asks, “Why wouldn’t we want to afford student-writers the “real” experience of writing as we knew it – as n encounter with readers, as a response to feedback, [and above all], as a route to new visions” (202). So, in simpler terms, I think Henry is proposing new ways, theories, practices, and methods of writing predominantly through the postmodernist lens.

Further, I think Henry poses a fundamental call to the work remaining to “correct [the]underestimation of technical writing’s potential and prowess” (208) and how technical writing has in recent and past years be perceived as undervalued with a “neglected population” (209) of writers within he field. In this way, he stresses the importance of technical communication educators to equip their students with rhetorical, theoretical, and organizational knowledge (209) so as to take that know-how savvy into the professional realm.

Perhaps what really drew me in within this chapter was the questions highlighted on page 212 as Henry cites Cynthia L. Selfe and Richard Sefle, Jr. pertaining to writerly sensibility in the domain of ethics and responsibility. I think each question is vital in the research and practicing of technical communication and can be of much use for future thought/conversation (and maybe even for final projects – such questions help create that theoretical space when thinking about my own final project and how to go about it). To end on Hnery, page 214 underlines some key things to take away, such as “language is the very material from which realties are socially constructed” and he goes further into how and why writing, particular technical writing/communication, is imperative in knowledge making/creating/building.

In t light, Grabill’s chapter serves as useful perspective on research and how it “produces culture and… its own possibilities for change” (167). As students, scholars, learners, knowledge finders and makers, I think we can see how important research is both within and outside our own workplace/space. More so, as Grabill points our, how such research and methodological practice can make a “significant contribution to public life” and communities. To this end, I think his prime example of the community-based research in his TOSC’s project provided that exemplification of the different ways in which how to approach how technical information is communicated to the community. Personally, I liked this approach – it reminded me of our conversation with Dr. Sackey in regards to how he went about his research methodology for a certain project (can’t remember which on exactly but I do remember him saying how he interacted with the local community and asked them to essentially peer review the texts and documents and asked for constructive feedback, thereby engaging in community-based research; a collaborative effort in way).

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.

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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)?

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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?

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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.

 

 

 

Ci/ypher Circle for Science and Technical Literacy

This week, I’m adding to a post I put up in class last week as I was finally able to fully read Edwards and Del Hierro and reconsider my possibly errant spelling of “cypher.” Del Hierro uses “cipher,” and that’s preferred, but “cypher” is not wrong. According to some, cypher is reminiscent of the “y” in “cyber,” which might make sense for me and our project, given that we’ve been circulating ciphers through a Massive Open Online Collaborative, as described below. What I’m wondering, though, given Del Hierro’s discussion, does the move from “i” to “y” ignore a pre-digital history of cipher circles or re-write this traditional African American rhetorical practice in the same way that Hass notes that digital rhetorics subsume predigital, indigenous practices of hypertext in beadwork that are pre-colonial ways of communicating technical information? Is i/y or i(y)holding onto a syncretic tension or just being too Vic Vitanza?

What I found particularly useful in Edwards was the breakdown of the five key tenants of Critical Race Theory: ordinariness, interest convergence, social constructionism, differential radicalization, and legal storytelling (383-384). Ordinariness is, I think, linked to the everyday experiences of people of color as they encounter microaggressions in language, representation, relationships, and the built environment. As Edwards notes, what keeps this system of oppression going is that whites benefit from the oppression, a phenomenon that I know too well growing up as a rural, poor, white southerner who remembers hearing, “At least we ain’t Black!” We know that race is a social construction, having no basis in biological science, but we invent it to serve our interests, to deny privilege, to mark difference, to mark boundaries and to create segregated and unequal societies.

But what happens once we know? Is knowing enough? The last tenant of CRT moves use from an interpretive frame to a productive frame as people of color are called to speak about their experiences and interrupt the single and stock stories of living in a non-white body. As a white ally, I wonder, then, what role I can play in this schema? Is there one?  Is teaching storytelling for social justice (Bell, 2006) part of this work? Is providing tools and technologies for digital storytelling in my classroom a way to make room for emerging and transformative stories? What can I do to amplify people of color’s voices in technical communication, or in other civic contexts?

This brings me to Del Hierro’s chapter and the discussion we had last week about cultural appropriation versus culturally-sensitive pedagogies. I don’t think these are binaries, in fact, I think they are parts of the same spectrum. Anytime we teach, we are appropriating culturally-specific ways of sharing and building knowledge. The traditional academic lecture is rooted in Medieval  University culture, a culture in which wealthy, white, male Europeans were invited into the inner sanctum of academe. When we teach with those methods, taking a page from Dr. Frost’s chapter, we should make our cultural appropriation just as apparent as when we teach with Hip Hop Pedagogies, making visible the history, the people, the bodies, and the labors built particular rhetorics of learning. Then we have to get critical– whose interests do these knowledge making protocols serve? How? A critical pedagogy would not ignore the ways that black women artists such as Lil’ Kim have always been second class in the hip hop nation, a condition that  Elaine Richardson writes about in Hip Hop Literacies. Don’t get me wrong, I love Del Hierro’s chapter, but his examplars–Afrika Bambattaa, Jay Z, Notorious B.I.G–are all male, and a critical approach would consider how all hip hop artists — Salt N’ Pepper or Lil’ Kim or Missy Elliott or Ms. Lauryn Hill–communicate technical information, including information about sex, sexual violence, and the everyday oppression of women.

Finally, I’ll end with the videos I shared last week. You’ll in the videos below that our spoken word poets from our Year One programming are all male, and I was adamant that we remix demographics in Year Two, brining two female poets into the mix. Katherine and Jha’ have brought so much to our work, and I’m reminded of Edwards’ call to reject color-blindness as we work hard to achieve what Mellody Hobson calls Color Boldness, working purposefully to surround ourselves with a diversity of bodies with radically different experiences. As Del Hierro calls on Anzuldua and hooks to move beyond racial diversity to gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, (dis) ability, etc., we should work to surround ourselves with a diversity of expression of the human (cyborg?) form, always paying attention to the power dynamics that limit some people’s expressions and ability to live a full and autonomous life.

From last week…

Here’s one of the videos we (Tar River Writing Project Teachers, The Poetry Project and Sacrificial Poets, and NC Museum of Nat Sci Scientists) made last year when we first started this NSF-funded project to use culturally-responsive practices to build science literacy. We went on a “bio blitz” of the area, documenting life forms using the iNaturalist citizen science app, getting help identifying species. Then we came together to share what we observed and learned, webbing our knowledge together through the cypher circle. This process got remixed over the course of a few weeks as teachers and students took up this rhetorical form to share what they were learning about their own environments, building an approach to hyperlocal environmental justice.

So check it out, and if anybody wants to propose to an ATTW panel about African/ AA rhetorical practices for communicating scientific and technical communication, HMU!

Also, this massive open online science collaboration is ongoing through the end of April, so lurk in or join and make some noise. The splash page for the collaboration is here.

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