Open access journals for rhetoric and composition scholars

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If you’ve been reading blog for a while, you know that I am proponent of the open access movement for scholarship. I’ve been keeping an eye out for online, open access journals in fields related to the work that I do — rhetoric and composition, and scholarship of teaching and learning, and digital humanities — and thought the most useful way to organize my bookmarks would be to write a blog post that would be useful for others like me who have texts appropriate for such venues and/or would like to publish in open access venues. If I’ve missed some good ones, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

Open Access Journals in Rhetoric & Composition/ Scholarship of Teaching & Learning/Digital Humanities [all links open in new tab]

Critical Literacy: Theory and Practice: An international journal with peer-reviewed articles along with internally reviewed “Practitioner Insights” and “Position Papers.”

Currents in Teaching and Learning: scholarship of teaching and learning, published out of Worchester State University.

Enculturation: A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, & Culture. (I’m guest editing a special issue coming out of the Computers & Writing conference that we hosted here in Raleigh last month.)

Environmental Humanities: A brand new journal (first issue launching November 2012) focusing on interdisciplinary approaches to environmental issues.

First Monday: A journal focusing specifically on the internet, first published back in 1996!

Harlot: An interactive digital magazine that looks at the rhetoric of everyday life.

Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal of Teaching & Technology: Publishes critical articles on digital pedagogy. (I’m especially excited about this one; they engage folks in discussion forums on their site, on Twitter & Facebook, and generally approach the concept of journal publishing in ways that better embrace the affordances of their medium.)

JAC Online: A Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, & Politics: The online companion to print JAC, a theory-focused journal.

Journal of Digital Humanities: Publishes traditional articles along with “conversations” about digital humanities; supported by George Mason University.

Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication: Another brand-new launch; it focuses specifically on online publication and scholarly publication. Their introductory issue focuses on open access in scholarship and includes a debate on the best type of CC license and tenure issues for faculty.

Journal of Writing Assessment: Focuses on writing assessment at all levels of education.

Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy: one of the most highly-regarded journals in rhet/comp (OA or not).

K.B. Journal: The recently re-launched journal of the Kenneth Burke Society.

Present Tense: This open access, peer reviewed journal focuses on contemporary social, cultural, economic, and political issues through a rhetorical lens.

Syllabus: A journal focusing solely on teaching materials, saying, “A good syllabus is a piece of original scholarship.” It publishes a wide range of materials, including assignments, assessment tools, and some articles on teaching.

Technoculture: An Online Journal of Technology in Society: Creative and critical works in technology studies.

Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing: Published by the Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing.

And of course, I would be remiss if I did not also include a link to the Directory of Open Access Journals, where you can go to find many, many more open access journals than what I’ve listed here.

What open access journals have you published in? Am I missing a really critical one?

The difficulty in being a digital media scholar

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Like many people, I love the Internet and all things related to digital media, spend a lot of time on the internet and with technology, and as my husband would argue, am (borderline) addicted to it all. Unlike many people, however, it is my job to study/research/analyze digital media and the Internet, as a part of my research for my PhD program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media at NC State. This means, at the very least, I have a good excuse for being addicted to it (unless you are my husband, in which case, it only means that I way too frequently bring my work home with me and work wayyy too much. Which is basically the life of an academic. I guess I have some explaining to do…). But my relationship with the Internet and other technology is not so simple.

It is fun and fascinating to study this broad field, but it can also be very frustrating, difficult to make productive, and hard to keep up with. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy with my graduate program, and I do love what I study – but it comes with some built-in difficulties that you have to learn to manage if you’re going to make a go at it with any real consequence. Here are some of my thoughts on the field (which is probably not even the best way to put it) after my first year of PhD work:

Studying the “field” of digital media/technology/the Internet (and yes, I know these terms are not interchangeable) is frustrating because the field is so large and unwieldy, grows bigger all the time, and transcends pretty much every other field in academia. At NCSU, we study rhetoric and digital media, but that is just one angle of digital media research. It’s being done by nursing programs, who analyze use of tablet computers for improving patient care, and political science, to examine the influence of social media campaigns on elections. And those are exactly the studies that we could undertake in our program as well. So how do we distinguish ourselves in the humanities? Or should we at all? Should we market our research outside of these select fields of Communication and English?

It can also be frustrating to study rhetoric and digital media from a humanities perspective because we have no clear methodological sense for how to effectively analyze these artifacts and all of the data they can produce. To borrow a term from Steven Krause, researching the internet in particular is akin to searching in “a haystack full of needles” – there is too much information out there, and it can be challenging to sort through all of it to find some kind of meaning/finding/publishable anything. Those in the humanities have yet to articulate any meaningful considerations for methodological study of digital media thus far, though my colleague Ashley R. Kelly and I will have a paper published in this year’s ACM SIGDOC Proceedings that begins to tackle this issue.

It can also be difficult to make research into digital media/technology/the Internet productive, and by productive, I’m referring to producing work that adds to the general body of knowledge in the way that academics aim to do (generally through publishing). A key challenge here is deciding what is meaningful and what is not, and this is directly related to the dearth of methodological literature. If we cannot conceive of the important considerations for digital media study, how can we know what artifacts and data are meaningful? Or when we do know what’s meaningful, has it taken so long that the information is no longer timely and relevant to academics and the general public?

This leads me to my third frustration with studying rhetoric and digital media: it is so difficult to produce work that is relevant and timely with the way that academic publishing works. Sure, in my seminar one semester, I was right on point with my analysis of a new technology or use of social media. But by the time I can revise a draft for a journal, send it out, revise a manuscript, and have it published – it’s no longer so timely and relevant. Obviously, this issue is not unique to digital media scholars, nor is it a new one, but it’s exaggerated by the fast pace of technology and digital media advancements. But as an ongoing issue, I strongly feel that we need to address it and find ways to make our research more available in a more timely way to the public – after all, we aren’t trying to only speak to each other with our work. Or at least, we shouldn’t be. The University of South Alabama has recently established a new journal that sets out to work on this issue, The Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric. Let’s support these new ventures so that we can find ways to keep our work timely and relevant as well as rigorous.

So, to recap: studying rhetoric (or insert any academic field, really) and digital media is challenging to say the least. But it is also exciting for all of the potential that is there. We just need to find ways to study it meaningfully – not just any old website or new gadget – and rigorously, as well as to make the information available when it is most relevant and not a year and a half or two years after it made news.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of studying digital media/technology/the Internet/whatever you like to call it? How do you deal with the issues I’ve mentioned here?

Poetics vs. Politics in a Discussion of Rhetorical Pedagogy

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Yikes. Blogging took a backseat this week to reading and reviewing student rough drafts. And also to this little gem of a response to two previous readings that I did for my Rhetoric and Digital Media class, which has been slightly adapted here for the blogosphere. I’ll be back soon with something else!

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In the twenty-first century, digital technologies have complicated the study and teaching of rhetoric. Multiple media forms on the internet, newly emerging genres, and a complex web of technologies and systems give rhetorical studies an ever-expanding array of subjects for study, while at the same time rendering the teaching of rhetoric in universities problematic. Scholars have begun to consider the consequences of apparently ubiquitous rhetoric and the impact on various areas of scholarship. Richard Lanham, in his latest work The Economics of Attention, argues that, in the age of information, our new scarce resource is attention, and rhetoric provides an economic model for dealing with new challenges in communication. He offers specific details about the impact of the attention economy on the university and how institutions of higher education can address these issues. Read against Lanham, Bryan Garsten does not seem to attend to academic considerations of rhetoric in Saving Persuasion, as he focuses primarily on close readings of traditional rhetorical texts as related to judgment of political issues. My response will show how each scholar addresses, whether directly or indirectly, the important questions of rhetorical pedagogy in the twenty-first century, and argues for a new online pedagogical practices based on a reading of both Lanham’s and Garsten’s advocacy of rhetoric.

The most direct discussion of rhetorical pedagogy comes from Lanham, who devotes an entire chapter, “The Audit of Virtuality,” to analyzing what he calls myths of higher education that need to be reconsidered in this attention economy. He asserts that the very technologies that have created an attention economy are those that can be used to improve educational experiences for both pupils and professors. One of the earlier myths that he addresses is the fact that universities must be brick and mortar and individuals physically (in addition to mentally) present for students to learn and for instructors to teach effectively. On the contrary, he claims, and uses the Open University in the United Kingdom to demonstrate how “the digital medium allows new mixtures of text, voice, and image that create educational programs of unprecedented power” (240). He continues to comment on the ideas that scholarly work is not so incredibly serious that we should eschew play, which encourages creativity; that administration should no longer cocoon faculty from the outside world, but instead that virtual programs would expose faculty to real world issues; and that universities are not so separate from industry and as such, comparisons can only improve their collective function. Most notably for rhetoric, though, Lanham concludes the chapter by arguing that “the new electronic field of expression” radically alters what scholars are doing and how we are doing it, primarily for the way that “it creates a different rhetoric that puts words, written and spoken, in new juxtapositions with picture and sound” (248). He notes that academic teaching methods of changed, generally for the better, though he fails to explicitly describe these new practices at this point and only moves to discuss it in his final chapter, “Revisionist Thinking.”

Garsten, however, does not address modern pedagogy as directly as Lanham, though some insightful ideas can be inferred from his discussion of judgment that occurs in his final chapter, “Persuasion and Deliberation.” He concludes his book, throughout which he does a political reading of classic rhetorical texts, by calling for a deliberative democracy; deliberative based both on argumentation and also in the sense that citizens can “purposefully consider as completely as possible within the time that we have the factors relevant to our decision, bringing to bear upon our choice whatever different sorts of knowledge and information seem relevant, including perceptual, emotional, intuitive, experiential, theoretical, and scientific knowledge” (192). Garsten explains that in doing so, citizens draw upon their faculty of judgment, and rhetors should facilitate deliberation by posing questions that allow interlocutors to “draw upon the knowledge they take from their situations and from their particular commitments” (192-3). He also considers how persuasion “will require careful study of the particular characteristics of one’s audience” (193). Garsten clearly emphasizes the role of knowledge in persuasion in these to passages, but seemingly fails to discuss how this knowledge is acquired – at least formally. He does, however, reflect on the importance of individuals informing themselves of the arguments and opinions around them, of paying attention to fellow citizens, and to gain understanding of opposing views in order to strengthen our own arguments in the public arena.

The link then that connects Lanham’s attention economy-affected university and Garsten’s self-centered instruction is the setting in which learning can occur for their intended audience: online. Lanham advocates a return to teaching rhetoric in the university, displacing science and business programs in favor of arts programs for their focus on the attention structures he argues are imperative to know for succeeding in an attention economy. The virtual classroom is an ideal setting for Lanham’s charge to take place; while science-based courses require lecture and lab space, many rhetoric-based courses can easily be conducted online. The internet would show students first-hand how websites compete for their attention and give them much fodder for discussion. Furthermore, he discusses in the final chapter how not only university students need to learn about the attention economy, but consumers as well. He uses William Lewis’ argument that “‘[c]onsumers are the only political force that can stand up to producer interests’” (qtd. in Lanham 261),  and make conscious choices every day that have political and aesthetic impacts. Too many choices, though, pose a problem for consumers, and thus Lanham claims that “training the chooser can protect and refine the freedom the market creates. . . [and] can build bridges between individual choices and understanding group behavior” (262). Essentially, he advocates not only formal training in university, but also for consumers to protect themselves from being misguided amidst the excess of information available online and for individuals to better understand the opinions and actions of others, just as Garsten does in his concluding chapter.

Each scholar’s approach to learning rhetoric online, however, would most likely look different. Garsten’s focus on political rhetoric and close reading of texts contrasts with Lanham’s advocacy of rhetoric in the university, particularly in humanities courses, and his economic approach to the issue in general. On one hand, Garsten encourages controversy to engage in judgment, and as such, a fitting exercise for deliberation may be found on public political forums, including news outlet-sponsored sites and partisan pages, that encourage participation from all citizens. Here, internet users could exercise Aristotle’s situated judgment by choosing a forum that interests them, while at the same time practicing deliberative partiality by reading and weighing arguments from the opposition when writing a response. Garsten’s approach is clearly group-oriented and relies on back and forth communication between individuals for learning and persuasion to take place. Without receiving a response to a post, or finding an opponent with which to debate, the setting is not interactive and thus would not facilitate learning by either party. He would also advocate repeated practice of debate, for “the best ideas will not always carry the day in democratic debate, and even the most attentive and skillful efforts at persuasion often fail for reasons unconnected with the merits of the cause” (211). So, the internet provides the perfect combination of opportunity and audience to exercise persuasion and hone rhetorical skills. There is an audience for everyone and essentially unlimited forums to house deliberations.

On the other hand, Lanham’s education model for rhetoric online is a more individual approach than Garsten’s, with people enrolling in virtual classes as they fit into their lives and not on a regulated semester system, “supplying knowledge when and where it is needed” (237-8). Students thus rely on their on self-motivation to learn or learn as they encounter situations that drive them to do so, and online courses result in both physical and temporal isolation of students from one another. If a student can enroll at any point during the year, regardless of the semester, basic principles such as group work or responding to peer writing would not be logistically easy to plan into the schedule, making it unlikely that students learning stems from anything but their own reading and interpretation of texts. Lanham’s model is flexible in terms of the models for study, for “the World Wide Web has. . . developed into an ever-richer community resource. The more people graze on it for their own purposes, the bigger it becomes and the greener its grass grows” (13). They could study the implications of multimedia web pages and the new ways in which web designers demand internet user attention. Also, one person’s blog posts can become the subject of another person’s study, which can be assigned reading by an instructor in his perpetual-registration virtual class, and so on. The cycle of production, and thus learning, is never-ending.

Overall, Richard Lanham and Bryan Garsten present theoretically and pragmatically different arguments in their respective works; however, each scholar’s argument has implications for learning and teaching of rhetoric in modern society. With the recent rise in networked classroom experiences and significant increase in online course materials, it will be important to read other works such as these for the pedagogical insights that they have to offer so that we may more aptly address issues of digital rhetoric for students and for our own learning.

Works Cited
Garsten, Bryan. Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U P, 2006.
Lanham, Richard A. The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006.

Applying Warnick’s Model & Looking at “Online Rhetoric”

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This week in Rhetoric and Digital Media, we’re reading Barbara Warnick’s useful critical text, Rhetoric Online: Persuasion and Politics on the World Wide Web. This work is one of the first attempts to differentiate between traditional text-based or speech-based rhetoric and new digital forms of rhetoric, or “online rhetoric.” To briefly summarize, she argues for critics to still consider elements of traditional rhetoric, but that online rhetoric necessitates new critical inquiries and methods to be fully understood.

Those of us studying rhetoric and digital media know that we no longer have to justify web sites or internet applications as legitimate texts for study – we know they are important and have significant impact on our culture. And thanks to Warnick, we have a good starting place for thinking about web texts rhetorically.

Rhetoric as the economics of attention?

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This week in my rhetoric and digital media course, we are reading Richard Lanham’s The Economics of Attention. What a fascinating read! After several weeks of communication theory (not my strong point), this is a book that I’ve really gotten into and can’t wait to discuss in class. And now to think through some of the key ideas before getting to class… (Not a full synopsis.)

Lanham’s introduction I saw to actually be his weakest chapter. He spends time here justifying the niche of the book, showing the audience why this message is necessary now and what new ideas he’s bringing to the table. This is where I saw him taking the most liberty with his logic and explanation for how he’s arrived at the conclusion that rhetoric nowadays is the economics of attention. I believe he has a 100% valid argument and great idea, I just wasn’t convinced with the explanations he used in the introduction. It is clear, though, that in today’s information economy, we are drowning in knowledge and access to it, and the scarce resource that we need to allocate more efficiency is our attention. How to manage attention? Lanham claims that rhetoric is the key: the books, web pages, videos, songs, etc. that we will read/watch/listen will be the ones that pay attention to style and audience.

In the third chapter, Lanham begins to outline what he sees as “what’s next for text,” or how text will move beyond linear black and white print to the electronic forms now made possible through technology. This chapter is actually posted online, because it was written using HTML and he wants it to be read that way (though it is possible to read it in the book; I read the book chapter first and later went to read it online, what a difference!). The coolest point he makes here, I think, is a discussion of Martin Minsky’s experimental e-text, where Minsky walks around in the margins of his book as he narrates.  Can you imagine having the author roaming the margins of the book that you are reading, offering extra information as you hover your eyes over a certain word? I all of a sudden feel enlightened to this amazing possibility with e-text and want to see more of it in practice. I wonder where to find them? The e-texts we think of now are essentially Kindle books (or other companies’ equivalents). How come we haven’t made greater strides using all of the tools available to us? Overall, the argument in this chapter, with all of the examples of digital, animated, and interactive text is that digital media influences style, but it is also influenced by style.

 The final chapter I want to think about is Chapter 7, “The Audit of Virtuality,” as I’m helping lead discussion for this one in class tonight. Here, he explores how concepts of online universities can offer better models for traditional universities, ultimately arguing not that traditional universities need to change their ways completely, but that a university that succeeds in the new attention economy will oscillate between virtual and theoretical practices to better suit the needs of students. He claims that the four-year model for school, with semester courses, is no longer relevant, and that schools need to be more flexible to meet the needs of students. This also means that tenure may no longer be the best way to evaluate the suitability of a professor for a department, or that the same professor has to teach the same course for nineteen years running (as Lanham himself did). Instead, Lanham posits that a professor sets up a course one time, complete with readings, assignments, etc., and the university can offer the course virtually in unlimited settings. Lanham never addresses whether the course would be evaluated for effectiveness and whether a professor would work to improve the course over the years, as many professors do in their regular courses.

As an instructor teaching a hybrid (half in-class and half online) course for the first time this semester, this chapter was especially relevant to what I am currently doing. I recognize how I am in the middle of an attention economy in attempting to select readings for my students to do online, and I often choose fluff (style) over stuff (substance), knowing I can add missing or additional information later if I need to. But the first goal is how to get the students to do the readings for the online work days – and figuring how to get their attention is my first order of business when designing a day’s work. What Lanham doesn’t address, which I think is crucial for his model of a university that oscillates between virtual and traditional values, is how to support instructors in an attention economy. Because digital rhetoric demands a new attention model (one of Lanham’s main claims), it goes without saying that instructors will need new models for teaching. How can we support the faculty in this endeavor?

Finally, as a graduate of a private arts college who appreciates her liberal arts degree, I have to say that his view of the re-emerging arts degree a little too utopian to be probable. Yes, this attention economy necessitates new rhetoric, but will employers recognize this as a skill coming from arts degrees? Not necessarily. This is one of his prophecies that I don’t see coming true at the moment. On the whole, I definitely agree with his view of the new attention economy and see a new rhetoric emerging as a result, but I just don’t see how arts degrees will be favored over others because of it. We may see new programs of study emerging, which I think is a better approach to producing graduates with the ability to work in an attention economy – not reverting back to English literature majors because they can recognize style when they read it.