Monthly Archives: November 2010

Research Status Entry

After receiving six responses to the survey, primarily from writers who have more experience in writing poetry, I am finding that the majority of participants (currently four of the six) compose initial drafts with paper and pen rather than on a computer.  The participants are also reporting that they perceive a large (4) or very large (2) difference between the two composing methods.  These initial results seem to be confirming my thesis that there is a difference between the two methods.  In addition to these results, I have found that many of the comments provided to the open-answer question enlightening, and may provide guiding questions when developing the final analysis.  I have also found that the response rate is somewhat limited in this field, and I hope there will be a way to rectify the situation before the final report is due.

Investigating Technology’s Influence on Composition, the Long View

Hartley, James, Michael Howe, Wilbert McKeachie.  “Writing through Time: Longitudinal Studies of the Effects of New Technology on Writing.”  British Journal of Educational Technology 32.2 (2001): 141-151.  Academic Search Complete.  Web.  15 October 2010.
            Hartley et al address the question in this paper as to whether the changes in writing and thinking through changing technology usage merely “a cosmetic one…or are the changes more fundamental than this” (141).  The authors review literature produced in the final decade of the 20th century, and find the debate centers around the “three possibilities [Hartley (1993)] outlined” (142).  In order to discover which of the three were more probable, the authors took to a method to describe “pieces written by the same authors over lengthy periods using different technologies” (144).  The method of research involved a statement of writing methods, a selection of samples from a broad time period, and a quantitative analysis of these samples from each of the authors of the paper (144-45).  It should be noted that each of the authors is a university professor, that the authors are evaluating their own works, and finally that the selected writing samples were chosen from times after the authors attained university degrees.   

These faults may or may not influence their findings, but I am leaning toward the concern that each author had already set his writing style before the selected samples were written.

            In the results tables of the quantitative analysis, each author displays remarkable consistency over the course of the decades.  These findings are displayed in tables with variables including: average number of sentences, number of words per sentence, percentage of passive sentences, the Flesch Index score, and the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level score (146-48).  The authors find that although there are fluctuations within each individual sample (148), “the only measure that is perhaps time-related is the use of passive [constructions]” (149).  The authors continue, however, to attribute that change to the fourth edition of APA’s Publication Manual (1994), which encourages the use of active rather than passive verb constructions (149).
            Although the authors conclude that the changes they have made in technology usage in composition has not significantly influenced their writing styles (149), I again point to the issue with the methods used in this study.  These authors had significantly defined their writing styles prior to when the samples selected were composed, and I believe this is a significant shortcoming.  By evaluating developing writers, as well as writers who are constantly attempting to define themselves (i.e. – poets), I hope to show that there are significant differences between analogue and digital technologies in drafting.

Hints Toward the Effects of Computers on Composition

Longo, Bernadette, Donna Reiss, Cynthia L. Selfe, Art Young.  “The Poetics of Computers: Composing Relationships with Technology.”  Computers and Composition 20 (2003): 97-118.  Science Direct.  Web.  20 October 2010.
            Longo et al describe a graduate course design which they taught at Clemson University in 2001.  They designed the course to expose students to “a range of nonfiction and fiction literary works that deal with complex technology issues,” as well as solicit “a variety of humanistic responses to these works” (97-8).  The ultimate goal of the course was to imbue a conscientiousness in the students with regard to the power relationship between people and digital means, and to provide a basis of theory from which to manipulate that relationship (98, 99).  The goals and approaches for the course seem to line up closely with Old Dominion University’s English 662 course.  
In place of the cyborg as a central metaphor, however, Longo et al decided to use robots.  The authors state that the choice assisted in “identifying a central set of questions… What does it mean to be human, what does it mean to be a machine, and what can machines tell us about being human” (99).  Again, these questions are mirrored by ODU’s course design.  The similarities continue in some of the responses students provided to a questionnaire sent several years later, claiming insight into the relationship between digital technologies and people, as well as the interconnected power relationships generated through interaction with technology.
            The creative responses solicited by the authors, however, begin to display differentiation to ODU’s course offering.  Students were asked to “construct and compose poems and other texts in response to visual images” and vice-versa (102-103).  These figures were produced in class by the students with relatively low-tech provisions, and the annotations were constructed on the spot during the same time.  It is these “brief reflections on the cyberselves they had constructed” (104) which most interests me, as they display a rough analogue (non-digital) process which I hope to find in my own research.  The authors point particularly to “Robyn’s gangly dancer (see Figure 2)” (104), which she annotated with a brief poem, as a response to the interplay between the human and the digital.  I am interested in this student’s response because she displays some of the qualities which I expect to find in the drafting process in the analogue area as far as attention to rhyme, rhythm, and word choice.
            The graduate students were also asked to “[take] several weeks to write an original poem” as well as construct a visual complement (105-06), and the authors spend several pages evaluating these constructions (106-110).  This section is also extremely relevant to the literature review of my study, however, because the students produced finely-honed examples, it may not be possible to relate these directly to the initial drafting process I am investigating.  This section may prove relevant in further investigations of the integration between the digital and the poetic realms.