The third concept I saw emerge in my review of the literature concerns the development and implementation of new or revised pedagogical considerations.
Stephanie Vie (2008) while not directly mentioning the rhetoric of social networking technologies, puts out a call to action with respect to changing how composition is taught in the classroom. The traditional approach using the academic essay as the central focus in the composition classroom, according to Vie, needs to be adapted to foster a technological literacy that is required to navigate and compose within and across the new Web 2.0 technologies. Shifts in the perception of authorship and audience and the extremely participatory nature of these technologies need to be addressed by instructors in order to remain relevant.
She outlines the digital divide not in terms of access versus no access to new communication technologies but rather frames it as a divide between students’ and composition instructors’ level of knowledge and technological expertise with Web 2.0 communication technologies. Vie argues that students of ‘Generation M’ have left composition instructors behind causing questions of authority.
According to Vie, ‘Generation M’ students posses the technological know-how to navigate and compose in social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and others, but they lack critical technological literacy skills. The textured literacy skills required, and in many cases mastered, for self-expression on these sites should not be underestimated. Multi-modal composition of a user profile necessitates a combination of new media composing and technological literacy skills that many composition instructors find intimidating. Jenkins (2006) names this phenomenon media convergence and contends that the importance of these social networking sites lies in their inherent call for user participation.
I interpret Vie’s call for a new approach to teaching composition that includes the teaching of critical technological literacy as a call to devise a rhetorical model that applies for today’s participatory social networking spaces. This is the point where traditional models of rhetoric have to be challenged and adapted to account for the new arrangement and invention that is required to succeed in this space, possibly not unlike the one proposed by Jeff Rice in ‘Urban Mappings: A Rhetoric of the Network .’
Lowe and Williams (2004) at the more tactical and practical level contend that there is a problem with creating artificial rhetorical situations for students on WebCT or Blackboard and that writing on a real blog is a real rhetorical situation because a real audience has access to it. They state that, “Many students today regularly email friends and family, converse via instant message daily, participate in multiplayer online games with people from around the web, and surf Internet sites much as earlier generations read magazines and newspapers. Students see the web as a public, playful place different from the writing spaces they typically work in within the classroom. Recognizing this, some composition teachers now assign individual hypertexts or group hypertext projects such as webzines, hoping to tap into the students’ sense of play and familiarity with online environments in order to stimulate investment in and engagement with their writing.”
Welch (1999), in her call for the Next Rhetoric, advocates Isocrates’ pedagogical theory which affords us an alternative to the discourse education that focuses heavily on handbooks, rote learning, and static formulae for discourse. Similar notions have been discovered in the realm of business communication. Reinsch and Turner (2006) in their article, ‘Ari R U there?’, call for business communication pedagogy to raise awareness among students (the future workforce) about rhetorical situations in business communication that have been reshaped by new communication media. Pedagogy must account for this in form and content, and according to Reinsch and Turner must also foster rhetorical thinking (p. 346).
Torning (2008), just like Kathleen Welch and others, recognizes that we are within a century of social transformation that requires careful examination of rhetorical concepts. He cites Peter Drucker, one of the great theorists in organizational management, as asserting that in today’s workplace with the emergence of the knowledge worker (KW) a new skill set is needed. Continual learning grounded in a formal education and “the ability to acquire and apply theoretical and analytical knowledge” are essential for the knowledge worker and the organization that employs the KW.
(Find the bibliography at http://bit.ly/2GK8Dk)