THE CORE of THE CLASS

Since the 1980s, too much of scholarship examining the impact of digital media on processes and practices of written composition has been grounded in an implicit understanding of the computer as a sort of enhanced typewriter. Computers have been seen as more flexible and more efficient than their pre-digital predecessors, but not altogether different in kind. And elements of contemporary laptops make it easy to mistake them for straight-line descendants of the typewriter. The QWERTY keyboard is only the most obvious of the markers of the degree to which digital writing spaces are shaped by the mechanical limitations of 19th century writing machines. The advent of cloud computing makes it — if not impossible — inadvisable to continue to frame shifts in writing technology as a reducible to a relatively straightforward linear progression.

21st Century networked digital tools are often dependent on the use of high-speed connections to the Internet to construct cloud-based simulacra of the physical drives and other writing spaces that we understood to be within our computers. Composers writing on Google's Chromebooks have little "internal" space to work with. Rather, their work occurs not so much on their laps, or desk, but rather in the server spaces assigned to their particular machine. Writers have never been so distant from their own work. Ironically, the work of other writers has never been "closer" than it is to contemporary composers who typically navigate around e-mail, instant messages, and an ever-expanding pool of freely available texts in order to write. This seminar surveys some of the best and most interesting of the very recent scholarship on 21st century writing, rhetoric, and composition in order to better understand how writers are responding to profound shifts in their writing technologies and writing spaces. In keeping with the topic of the class, students will be encouraged to pursue capstone projects that take advantage of the opportunities afforded by networked digital tools and composing spaces.