Cookbook Overview

As I look back at the twenty-one blog posts I have written this semester, I still have trouble calling myself a “blogger.” Is it because I didn’t venture into the blogosphere independently, but instead as part of a course requirement? Perhaps it is because all of my posts are academic in nature, and not one of them is truly “personal” in nature.  Regardless of my uncertainty about my blogging status, I do know that I learned a lot about myself as a writer and thinker through my blog posts.  While I read through my entries to decide which four to include in my Cookbook overview, I was intrigued to find connections that I hadn’t initially considered—not only connections among different posts, but also connections between posts and course readings.  I found that many of my entries leaned toward discussion of themes that Winston Weathers introduces in his “Grammars of Style” essay and that Jeff Rice offers in his piece, “English <A>”, so I decided to frame my Cookbook entries within the writing theories these authors present in their work.  I discovered three particularly salient ideas about writing that Weathers and Rice appear to support, and to which my four entries also relate: writing is social (not independent) work, writing is non-linear, and writing is highly visual.

Rice explains the social aspect of his English <A> pedagogy when he says that the word “social” “indicates a space of connectivity that situates relationships as a central point” (52).  I touch on the social piece involved in the writing process in two of my blog entries. Rice’s emphasis on networks, relationships, and connections in the online writing world reminded me of my first blog entry, “Here We Go”.  In this post, I express some anxiety about the idea of writing in a publicly accessible space, since I am so accustomed to writing as an individual activity.  In fact, I might even classify myself as an “antisocial” writer, based on this blog entry.  I recall that Rice mentions the notion of independent writing when he notes that in the English A framework, it seems important to “equate writing with the notion of one individual working independently” (56).  When I examine my “Here We Go” post, I detect pieces of English A lingering in my writing practice.  My apprehension to step out of my individual writing zone may also be connected to Weathers’ assertion that in most classrooms, we keep to the “confines of one grammar only” (134); perhaps I am, despite my shuddering at the thought, rather stuck in the Grammar A mindset, fearful of other alternative ways of presenting my writing “outside the box”, so to speak.  Blogging is a venture into the unknown, a kind of Grammar B in the mind of someone who is set in her ways of safe, independent, structured writing.

My blog entry, “The Keyword Search Begins also contains elements that could be linked to English A’s foundation of non-social composing.  In my update, I note that my keyword, “response”, takes on various meanings, one of which is pen-to-paper written commentary from teachers to students.  It is interesting to contemplate the idea in this traditional view of response that both forms of writing–the student’s text and the instructor’s response–take place in isolation from one another.  But in other more technologically-grounded response practices, such as online commenting/emailing that I mention in my post, and even audio commenting (like Derek’s responses to our Keywords Projects), it is possible to see the social aspects of Rice’s English <A> come into play.

In addition to the social nature of writing, I also touch upon the non-linearity of the composing process through two more of my blog entries. In my “Finding Connections” blog entry, I note that both Johnson- Eilola and Rice seem to recognize that writing in today’s technology-rich environment is no longer a linear act.  By drawing a comparison between two scholars of many in the field of digital literacy, I find myself making a connection that may reflect what Rice means when he says that “<A> is the basis of a large network of people, things, ideas, and places that find connectivity rather than are made to connect”(64). Finding a connection between authors in my blog wasn’t a clean-cut linear move. The link between Johnson-Eilola and Rice was not explicit; it required me to think in a non-linear fashion.  I didn’t read their work as a “single body of information”, which Rice indicates is central to English A pedagogy.  Instead, I made “multiple moves across multiple spaces” (Rice 64) that led me to connect the two writers in my blog entry.

Also in my “Finding Connections” post, I mention Ted Nelson, the father of hypertext.  Rice invokes Nelson when he discusses English <A>’s creation of web-based relationships that embody the “non-linear sequentiality Ted Nelson declared as being at the heart of his initial vision of hypertext” (50).  Again, my blog entry highlights the non-linear nature of writing in the digital age by linking Rice and his emphasis on the relational aspects of English <A> with Nelson and his focus on the multidirectional qualities of hypertext.

While Rice’s English <A> is grounded in non-linear text creation, Weathers’ Grammar B also exhibits characteristics of non-linear writing that I discuss in my “Presentation Zen and Grammar B” blog entry.  Presentation Zen’s emphasis on slides that contain more images than words might be seen as a divergence from the traditional view of text as linear and sequential, just as Weathers’ Grammar B presents an alternative to the traditional rule-bound grammatical conventions that value linearity and set order.  There are no rules within Presentation Zen for the order in which slides are presented, and this is primarily a result of the focus on images, not text.  The more textual language slides contain, the more important the linearity of the presentation, since words must necessarily follow some kind of set order for the audience to generate meaning from them.  However, as I highlight in my blog entry, the simplicity of slides that display minimal text in Presentation Zen slideshows naturally lends itself to clarity without the need for a traditionally linear text-rich sequence of slides.  A strong impact is made on the audience because of the lack of sequentiality, much the same as the impact on readers of texts containing non-linear Grammar B structures such as lists, collage/montage, and double voice.

While writing is both social and non-linear according to Weathers and Rice, it is also a highly visual process in their theoretical frameworks. In my “Here We Go” blog entry, a major source of my anxiety surrounding the act of blogging is the kind of openly visual “socialized information motivated by <A>’s relationship with tagging: publicly archived, interlinking, and connected research” (64) that Rice indicates is essential to writing in the digital age.  In this case, I am thinking of “visual” as not only in terms of the publicly accessible nature of blog entries, but also in terms of the physical appearance of the blog itself. The idea that my blog is able to be seen by the public and possibly scrutinized for its visual appeal as well as its content makes it an even more daunting task in my mind.

The act of response can also have quite a visual effect on an audience.  My “The Keyword Search Begins” post mentions the possibility of non-traditional modes of response, like emailed or audio comments, but in more traditional response practices, like those that might be employed in Grammar A pedagogy, instructors might focus on elements of writing that present themselves as surface errors.  Surface error response, which oftentimes employs red ink on paper, has a very specific kind of visual impact on a reader. This type of response practice can elicit feelings of fear, dismissal, and uncertainty–not very positive emotions.  In Grammar B pedagogy, teachers might be more inclined to respond positively to writing that actually makes use of sentence fragments and labyrinthine sentences, rather than reject these structures.  Therefore, Grammar B-type response practices, with their focus on non-conventional text usage, might have a very different visual effect on the reader (or writer, as it may be) than responses grounded in Grammar A pedagogy.

In my “Presentation Zen and Grammar B” blog entry I present the connection between the visual impact of Presentation Zen image-rich slideshows and the visual nature of text structures found in Grammar B.  In alternative writing styles found in the Grammar B framework, words are designed to have a visual impact on the reader, which can help to evoke a particular mood.  For example, when he discusses Whitman’s use of the labyrinthine sentence, Weathers notes that “he is suggesting, via style, the entangling environment in which the masses and the enslaved live and are living and from which Whitman sought to rescue them”(139).   Just like Grammar B writing styles, Presentation Zen slides are purposefully visual in nature, and have a completely different impact in the viewer than more traditional PowerPoint slideshows, which most often contain more words than images.  In this way, traditional text-rich PowerPoint presentations can be compared to Grammar A, in that they are both bereft of visual elements.

As I reflect on my journey into the blogosphere that has taken place over the past three and a half months, I am tempted to pat myself on the back.  Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?  I was apprehensive at first, knowing that my writing was “out there” for anyone (well, at least anyone interested in my very specific computers and writing class-oriented blog posts) to read.  But it became less intimidating with each post.  Even though I have become marginally more comfortable with the act of blogging, there is still much to explore.  As my Cookbook reveals, certain themes can sometimes take shape as we blog about subjects that intrigue us, even if we don’t recognize these connections immediately.  Perhaps if we take the time to return to our thoughts and ideas from time to time, we can begin to form links between them that can benefit us both personally and professionally. My first blogging experience has lead me to be open to more social, non-linear, and visually-oriented writing possibilities.

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