DeVoss, Dànielle Nicole, Ellen Cushman, and Jeffrey T. Grabill. “Infrastructure and Composing: The When of New-Media Writing.” College Composition and Communication 57 1 (2005): 14-44. Print.

  • The authors are going to take up the “moment in time, space, institutional relations, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles” involved in student created new media projects (15).
  • The political and institutional infrastructures that allow new media composition will be a focus of the article
  • A central premise to this study is the idea that these political and institutional infrastructures that allow new media composition to take place are also “deeply embedded in the decision making processes of writing” (16).
  • By taking up the institutional and political infrastrucutures of new media writing, the authors hope to provide an analysis gthat takes up “the ways in which new-media writing becomes defined, shaped, accepted, rejected, or some combination of these; who gets to do new media; who gets to learn it, where, and how; and what values get attached to this work (and to its writers and audiences)” (17).
  • The infrastructures the authors are discussing are composed of just about everything physical and political (policies) that you can imagine.  For the article, they give a breakdown in the following form:
    1. Embeddedness – how is the infrastructure “sunk” into other structures, social arrangements, and technologies?
    2. Transparency – Infrastrucutres are “invisible” to use – they don’t need to be reassembled each time we use the space (which is part of the problem)
    3. Reach or Scope:  spatial or temporal – infrastructure must exist in more than just one place or time.
    4. Learned as a part of membership – the “sin qua non” of membership in a community of practice is the “taken-for-grantedness” of artifacts and organizational arrangements
    5. Embodiments of standards – infrastructures work on standardized fashions or practices
    6. Installed base – Infrastrucutres are build on bases – and the limitations that come with those bases are our problem
  • Drawing from ANT (Engestrom), the authors argue that a tool is not something that exists a priori; rather, it’s something that is given meaning by specific users working “on particular problems in specific situations” (22).  Extending this definition to infrastructures, the authors argue for a new understanding of the term that includes a “productive and activist understanding” (22)
  • A main question for the study:  “What material, technical, discursive, institutional, and cultural conditions prohibit and enable writing with multiple media?  How does an infrastructural approach offer a lens through which we can better interpret and understand the multiple conditions at playin our writing classrooms?  How can an infrastructural interpretation support and enable new-media writing? (23)
  • After recounting a policy problem in Cushman’s digital writing class, the authors begin to discuss networks.  Cushman  think of networks as central to the “when” of new media composition; however, their definition of “network” seems to be overly technological: “network paths trhough wires, cards, ports, and servers and across policies and standards” (30-1).
  • In thinking about infrastructure, Cushman make a very Latourian statement, “Infrastrucutre needs to be reinvented each time or assembled for each task” (34).  The rupture points that Cusman and her class encountered are spots where the network needs reconfiguration.
  • The article states that the infrastructure (I would call it a network) is both always emergent and always present – again echoing Latour.
  • In closing, Cushman recommend that teacher and students must be able to “account for the complex interrelationships of material, technical, discursive, institutional, and cultural systems” (37).  For me, this means that a tracing of the network must occur before new media composition can be undertaken.

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