Stroupe, Craig. “Hacking the Cool: The Shape of Writing Culture in the Space of New Media.” Computers and Composition 24 4 (2007): 421-42. Print.

Abstract: Beginning with a problematic assignment in a “New Media Writing” class, this article demonstrates, first, the significant, perhaps irreconcilable differences in the writing/reading environments of print as opposed to New Media: the interiority, on one hand, of the individual text implied in the “shape” of narratives and other elaborated verbal performances and, on the other hand, the mythic exteriority of networked, information space and the market logic of its “attention economy.” These differences pose a challenge not only to the traditional practices of academic, literary, and professional discourse communities, but to what this article terms “writing culture”—that is, popular cultural practices and assumptions conditioned by the procedures and experience of textual elaboration. Examining student hypertexts, key critical works on New Media, web sites, and literary theory and history, this article suggests a solution to this challenge, arguing that the future development of online writing genres ultimately cannot depend on imposing written shapes on network space. Instead, a close analysis of a hoax from the auction site, eBay, suggests how parody can constitute a lens through which the Web’s own generic conventions filter the critical/creative consciousness that has long epitomized writing culture.

  • S. acknowledges at the beginning of the article that his assignment on hypertextual creative writing was already dates when he began teaching it in the mid 2000s.  This was mostly because the students were skeptical of the benefits of merely “porting” writing as usual into more immersive New Media writing environments.  This disconnect between print and network cultures is one focus of this article.  The other explicit focus is on “writing culture” or a way of “knowing the world that depends upon textual elaboration – and the kinds of critical or creative consciousness enabled by its production and reception – as an equal partner with the physicality or sensory experience and economic necessity in the making of meaning” (422).  In other words, understanding any culture as writing culture means understanding how the acts of writing and reading mediate all experience by figuring our preconceptions, expectations, and associations with life filtered through the writerly lens. As S. notes, “writing culture happens when textual experience meaningfully informs our very perception of so-called practical or direct experience” (423).
  • While not specific to the hypertext assignment, Stroupe asks a good question:  what are the cultural and economic aftereffects of the writing assignments our students do in the New Media classroom?  Will they live on on the web available to the world but connected to more or less nothing?  (426)
  • Eventually S. notes that the reason why his assignment didn’t really go over very well is because the networked nature of production in digital, social environments is inherently at odds with the kind of writing he was asking his students to do.  As he notes, “There is, in fact, not just resistance from readers and writers of traditional fiction, but outright hostility from contemporary network culture to the literary appropriation of digital protocols for its ‘continuous’ shapely, but isolatingly narrative purposes.  Indeed, the ideology of the network insists that truth and even transcendence are possible not in the interior worlds of individually authored texts and their enclosed, imagined universes, but in the collective action of connected users incrementally contributing ‘information’ from their particular corners of the world” (430).
  • Eventually S. finds value in the act of parody and pastiche because it turns “the tools and styles of cool, postmodern pastiche back on itself in the form of cultural parody.  In doing so, the writing culture can realize its critical and aesthetic intentions not with the self-consciously experimental ‘models or analogues’. . . but with the everyday models and analogues that the network itself provides us” (441).

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