Visible and Valuable Writing: A Case for Inviting Web Writing Histories into Composition Courses

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2017-06-30

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Abstract

This research takes as its premise a pair of accepted and connected truths in composition studies. First, mediation of student writing practices—the central action of any composition classroom—is accomplished only through engagement. Second, those practices, however abstruse, do not exist in isolation: they are the products of writers, who are the products of the environments from which they emerge. This thesis seeks to employ one of those environments, one in which 21st century students are entrenched, as a means to accomplish that necessary engagement with student writing processes: the web.

The stages of the writing process are indistinct and discursive, and they are approached differently by the scholars of each equally nebulous movement in composition studies. This study systematically delineates the tenets of those movements, introduces hallmark features of the present-day web, and asserts the merits of using Activity Theory and Actor Network theory as lenses for foregrounding the importance of writing technologies as detailed and unique mediators of writing actions. It suggests, then, relocating stages of the writing process to online spaces. Next, the results of discourse analysis performed on student activity in a First Year Composition course, in which online discussion boards were constructed as informal writing spaces, are presented. The results validate the conviction that transferable writing skills are successfully fostered when writing spaces are not foreign, but are instead carefully designed to acknowledge the characteristics of the web environment comfortably inhabited by 21st century students; finally, examples of the benefits of such design are demonstrated in discussions of the Web 2.0 hallmarks of perpetual beta, crowdsourcing, and folksonomies.

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Keywords

First year composition, web studies, activity theory, actor network theory, discussion boards, perpetual beta, crowdsourcing, folksonomies

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