Finding Sources for My Community Action Assignments Project

Covers of six books on Community Writing

I’ve felt a bit scattered as I’ve searched for sources for the project. Writing up the theoretical, pedagogical underpinnings is not my forte. I always feel a bit lost as I try to find the material to (in my mind) justify the assignments and strategies that I want to use.

Some would say I’m just suffering from a massive case of impostor syndrome. I would argue that it is at least partially that I am always stepping into topics that I haven’t had enough time to examine. I own lots of books, but I rarely get to read them all. I never know the latest articles or the most relevant publications. I always have to seek them out.

So that’s my situation. I have assignments and strategies to write up more fully. I have a strong sense of what will work and what students and teachers need to make an activity work. What I don’t have is a literature review that supports what I want to write.

Unfortunately the academy does not work on a “trust me” system. You have to spell out your support. You can’t just say what to do. You have to have a system that explains why it’s the thing to do.

During and since the ATTW Conference, I have been seeking out the sources that would help me explain the answers to some of those questions I mentioned from Lucía Durá and Bill Hart-Davidson’s featured workshop: Why these projects? What undertake these assignments now? What will the results be?

My simple search for resources that fit keywords such as community and writing yielded a handful of books:

Alexander, Jonathan, & Dickson, Marcia (Eds.). (2006). Role play: Distance learning and the teaching of writing. Hampton Press.

Deans, Thomas (2003). Writing and community action: A service-learning rhetoric and reader. Longman.

Deans, Thomas, Roswell, Barbara S., & Wurr, Adrian J. (2010). Writing and community engagement: A critical sourcebook. Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Faber, Brenton. D. (2002). Community action and organizational change image, narrative, identity. Southern Illinois University Press.

Grabill, Jeffrey T. (2007). Writing community change: Designing technologies for citizen action. Hampton Press.

Ryder, Phyllis Mentzell. (2011). Rhetorics for community action: Public writing and writing publics. Lexington Books.

What worries me most about these books is that while they are all appear to be quite relevant, they are not exactly the newest publications. Spanning the range from 2002 to 2011, the most recent title, Ryder’s Rhetorics for community action is over a decade old. The oldest of the titles, Deans’ classroom textbook Writing and community action, is two decades old. So I have to wonder if the entire topic is out of date. Is this a project that I should have been working on 20 years ago? Should I be approaching my ideas from a service learning angle rather than community writing and rhetoric? Who knows? I’m not even sure how to figure that out. For now, I’ll keep looking for more recent interest in the topic.

Community Action Assignments Project, #2

Cover of the ATTW 2022 Conference Program showing large bands of black, green, and pink with the text 24th Annual Conference, 2022 ATTW, Taking Action, Reimagining Just Futures in Technical Communication
Cover page of the ATTW 2022 Conference Program.

More things to record and think about for the collection I mentioned in my previous post. I described the advice I gathered from the works-in-progress session during the ATTW Conference in my previous post. It wasn’t the only session that seemed perfectly aligned with the issues that I have been exploring however.

Featured Workshop 3

Lucía Durá and Bill Hart-Davidson’s featured workshop focused on “Preparing Larger-scale Grant Proposals through an Equity Lens.” I’m not applying for a grant (If only. Wouldn’t it be grand to have a grant to pay for writing time?). That said, their heuristic for “creating an idea others will invest in” gave me these questions that I need to spend some time with before I fully commit to whatever it is I’m trying to write:

  • Why this project?
  • Why us [or me, in my case]? Why now?
  • What will we [I] do?
  • What results can we expect?

I don’t have the answers written out. I have an idea of the answers, but it’s not concrete. I am convinced however that I need to have solid answers if I’m going to get this project done.

Session E.2

Wesley Mathis, ryan moeller, and Hannah Stevens presented “Enacting Social Justice in Technical Editing.” I gained some useful resources from the session, including The Subversive Copy Editor (2016) and the Conscious Style Guide. I care very much about how the issues I plan to discuss are languaged. Words matter. It occurred to me during the session that style guides themselves should probably be folded into the collection of assignments I am dreaming about.

At one point during the session, I stated that we need to “stop talking about it as a style guide and start thinking about it as a descriptive discussion of how and what we value when we talk about people and issues.” The idea is that style guides are prescriptive systems, editor and publisher centered. My idea was to draw on the prescriptive/descriptive understanding of grammar. There’s more to figure out, and I’m glad I attended both Part 1 & 2 of the session.

Featured Workshop 5

Chris Lindgren, Marissa Buccilli, and Amilia Evans shared the analytical model behind their “Socially Just Content Strategy.” They are working with Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq on rematriation of Inuit knowledges (and there’s lots more on what goes into this work, but I stupidly did not write down enough notes on it).

What stuck with me was their system of landscape analysis, which considers how/if website design fit with the needs and ways of thinking and knowing of the readers the site. They use a three-part metric that examines (1) accessibility, (2) positionality, and (3) overall impressions. In small groups, we practiced using the analysis on the Passamaquoddy People: At Home on the Ocean and Lakes website. We worked through the site and considered how Passamaquoddy people would use the site, recording information in a spreadsheet.

As I considered the pages, I realized that this analysis strategy belonged in the community action work. Likely not in the exact form as Lindren, Buccilli, and Evans use it, yet students would very much need to consider the existing resources that a community has through the lens of that community. Further, the resources that they might make for the community must attend to the same issues. If the community action materials students create do not it the ways of thinking, knowing, and acting, they will be useless to that community—regardless of whether they are on point for the mission and message of the community.

Session G3

Erika Sparby’s session on “Tactical Meming” gave me the language for adding memes to the collection of community action assignments. I knew that they could fit, but before this session, I would have had trouble explaining the rhetorical and pedagogical reasons. In tactical meming, the images serve to make critical comments on situations and values that matter to a community. Further they can provide advice and resources to a community (such as handwashing memes at the beginning of the COVID pandemic). It’s a perfect piece to include in the collection.

Session J2

Megan Bronson, Sweta Baniya, and Liza Potts demonstrated a method for analyzing the rhetorical situation for disasters in their session “Collaborative Strategies for Networks for Collective Action Disasters.” Using examples from Potts’ 2014 Social Media in Disaster Response the three led attendees through the analysis of a disaster, asking that we identify “the people, places, technologies, organizations, groups, etc. that responded to, were affected by, or are somehow involved in a given disaster. Folks might refer to them as actors, change agents, chaos agents, participants, etc.” The group I was in focused on the BP Oil Spill Deepwater Horizon, creating this map:

Participant Map for the BP Oil Spill which includes the BP company, oil workers, protesters, oil costs, beach goers, animals, the oil righ, people buying gas and automobiles, boaters (including fisheries), and the legal system.

This additional way of mapping the communication related to an event can fold into the communication action projects as well. Whether looking at an event that has happened or planning one, writers need to think through how all these participants impact the messages, the medium, and the messengers. The visual aspect of the analysis seems likely to appeal to students, even if the maps are only used to make behind-the-scenes decisions about the projects.

Up next . . .

That’s all the notes I have from the conference. My next posts need to examine notes on the technology that might work for the collection and the resources that I have found in my brief research. I’m still trying to hammer down what this thing is, if it even is. That is coming soon as well.


Community Action Assignments Project, #1

Rally to Prevent Gun Violence
Image Credit: Rally to Prevent Gun Violence by Maryland GovPics on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

I am gathering notes for a collection I want to write on community action projects, focusing on assignments and classroom activities. I came up with the idea in mid-June.

I thought I could start with the "writing about/for community action/social justice" things I’ve done recently and then pull in revision of older stuff to fit. I’ve gathered 60+ pages in a Google Doc. Just copy/paste from originals with no revision, but still a large collection of notes.

ATTW’s Works-in-Progress Session

I attended a works-in-progress session during the ATTW Conference, for which I wrote this abstract:

I’m focusing on "writing about/for community action/social justice" in a collection of composing assignments and classroom activities. The collection will include various technical communication genres (e.g., technical description, instructions, white paper, correspondence, press releases). Composing media will include video, images, illustrations, and audio.

I’m working on a sort of mini booklet, PDF-ish, bigger than a pamphlet but smaller than a real book (I think). My practical approach to writing probably won’t work for a “real” press, so I’m guessing that this will be short and self-published. I am committed to an open access format and digital publication.

I realized later that I left out the fact that I am thinking of the audience to be writing teachers but also community organizers, if possible. I’m thinking of a collection that has multiple paths. There’d be one way to work through the collection if you were a writing teacher and a different way if you were a community organizer.

I had three questions for the session:

  • How much pedagogical framing is enough?
  • What would you look for in such a resource?
  • Any ideas on outlier places to place such a resource?

My group suggested that I might break things out so there are paths for learning objectives, genres, and kinds of social justice projects. For pedagogical framing, the group suggested that I could keep the intro brief and then follow it with an annotated bibliography where readers could find more information.

They also suggested some useful resources, including “Hashtag narrative: Emergent storytelling and affective publics in the digital age” by Paul Dawson.

More notes soon.

Memes and Protest Posters

Women's March, January 21 2017, Chicago, by Jonathan Eyler-Werve on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 licenseHow do the current political posters (say like at the women’s march) compare to political protest posters from another time period (let’s say the 60s)? I’m wondering if the rhetoric and content of image-based memes is influencing the phrasing and content of today’s posters.

Take that Grumpy cat poster, for instance. It’s building on the Grumpy Cat meme, of course. And it’s obviously referring to the Billy Bush tapes and Trump’s suggestion to “grab them by the pussy.” There were surely pop culture references in the protest posters of the past, but did they incorporate memes as this one does?


[Photo credit: Women's March, January 21 2017, Chicago, by Jonathan Eyler-Werve on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license]

CWPA 2016 Presentations

Using the WPA Outcomes Statement to Support Innovation in Meeting Discourse Outcomes for a General Education Curriculum.” Sheraton Hotel, Raleigh, NC. 15 July 2016.

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Toward a Programmatic Assessment Model for Multimodal Projects.” Sheraton Hotel, Raleigh, NC. 16 July 2016.

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Writing on Eggshells

shellsDamn the uncomfortable readers. It’s time to start writing again.

Some time ago, more than a decade, I wrote on this blog all the time. There were daily updates on what I was writing, links to things that I found, stories about my crazy dreams, and varied random ramblings. Some of those posts are harder to find because I made some dumb decisions about post titles, and I haven’t fixed them all (it’s on my to-do list). The point is that they are there.

I said what I thought, talked about the things I was working on, and described what was going on each day. When I was sad and depressed, I talked about it. I have dysthymic depression, social anxiety, and have had issues with major depression a few times. I didn’t put the names to what I was going through, but I talked about being overwhelmed and sad and scared and anxious.

And that was the problem. My posts made some people uncomfortable. Someone came to me and told me that I shouldn’t write everything I feel because I was “making everyone feel like they were walking on eggshells around me.” I could write about what I was working on, but I was told not to write about being sad or depressed or anxious.

So I stopped writing. I’m a black-and-white thinker, so it was my standard response. I let the uncomfortable readers silence me.

Eventually, I started posting news links. If you check the archives, there are years where nearly every post is a summary of the links I have posted to Twitter about educational news and writing resources.

I wanted to write and post more, but there were people worried about walking on eggshells always in my thoughts. So I said nothing for a very long time. And now, I am going to start writing again. I’m going to say what I want. I’m not sure what has made me brave enough to talk again. Perhaps it’s that I started taking antidepressants again in November after six years without them (when I couldn’t afford them at $800/month). Maybe it’s that I am teaching again. Maybe I just feel like a writer again.

Part of it is that I finally figured out how to move all those news posts to their own page and take back the blog’s homepage. That’s what I am going to do: take back my writing space and say what I want. I will no longer worry about my readers. I will write on those eggshells and post what I want. Here’s to writing whatever I want to say whenever I want to say it.

Connecting Selber and Halliday

Cover of Selber's Multiliteracies for a Digital AgeEver since I looked at the review of Stuart Selber’s Multiliteracies for a Digital Age in Composition Forum 14.2 (Courtesy of a tip from Bradley Dilger), I have been reflecting on my notes about M. A. K. Halliday’s literacy engagements.

I have a pile of old notes on how I thought Halliday might be used to understand technology engagement from my time at ReadWriteThink when the site used Halliday to structure the site.

Halliday’s literacy engagement system (learning language, learning about language, learning through language) parallels Selber’s. There are nuances that would need worked out, but generally I think I could argue that literacy learning follows the same kinds of meaning making, even when the kinds of literacy are different. I’m just not sure that matters as an observation. What does that knowledge really bring to the conversations and scholarship on literacy?

The Harm We Can Do

Pinocchio by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, on FlickrSara Kadjer shared “Can Reading Logs Ruin Reading for Kids?” from The Atlantic. The piece dredged up some memories for me, good and bad.

I guess I am an oddity, but I always loved tracking what I read when I was in school. Reading doesn’t really come with a tangible thing to point to when you’re done, and those logs let me say, “Look, I did all this!”

I know there are problems with the pedagogy when tracking takes away from the joy of reading. It made me recall Troy Hicks’ recent blog post on the troubling need to quantify everything students do.

That leads me to my bad memory. On the first day of class in 9th grade, the teacher asked us to write down all the things we read over the summer. I busied myself with a list in categories: mysteries, biographies, historical fiction, and so forth. I had to think in categories to remember them all. As I scribbled titles down, the teacher moved through the classroom. She paused at my desk, and I expected her to be impressed with the list of all the things I had read. Unfortunately, she instead announced to the full class that I had to be lying because no one read that many different books.

I try to remember that moment to remind myself that the long-term harm of my comments as a teacher can last forever. After all, I was in 9th grade a very, very long time ago; and I still remember that moment of shame very well.

Image: Pinocchio by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, on Flickr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Alphabetic Text as the Only Text

Page from a French ABC picture book for the letter A, showing asparagus and an ostrichI’m befuddled by this MLA call for proposals for a volume on the Changing Role of Writing in Composition.

Everything I understand about multimodal texts tells me that any alphabetic text is not tapping the linguistic mode alone; but from reading this CFP, you’d think that spatial and visual modes (for say a paperback book) weren’t a thing until this “turn toward multimodality.”

I’ve read and reread the call, trying to figure it out. I thought maybe I was just not getting something (blame imposter syndrome). For the life of me though, I can’t figure out how to respond to that while talking ONLY about alphabetic text (which is culturally limiting in addition to not making sense in a multimodal context). I’d really love to submit something to the call; but I can’t figure out how to work within such a limited vision of what it is to be multimodal.

Image: abc album p1 by patricia m, on Flickr, used under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Free Access, If You’re Patient and Persistent

Covers of the Journals with Articles included in the Rhetoric & Change CollectionRoutledge (Taylor and Francis) is offering a nice collection of articles to mark the RSA conference this weekend: Rhetoric & Change: A Free Access Article Collection in Collaboration with the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA).

It looks like a grand collection; however, the fact that you have to read and download everything one-by-one leads me to believe that Routledge is more interested in trying to keep you on their site than actually providing free access to key pieces.

A well-designed site would have a “Download All” option. I would have been willing to fill out a short survey and give them my email address for such access. Sure free != easy, but it could and often should. Shame on Routledge!