Danah Boyd, New Media, and Discourse

Our readings this week were all very interesting, and mostly related to online composition and studies of its complexities.

Dana Boyd’s dissertation was a fun read; I now understand why she is such a popular author, especially as a blogger. Her writing style and voice are incredibly personable as well as intelligent. I hope I can develop a similar communication style. In Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics, Danah did an ethnographic study of teen’s cultural and social practices with new media networks during the rise and fall of MySpace (c. 2004-2006).

Her methods were truly impressive:  she scoured hundreds of thousands of profiles on sites as various as LiveJournal, Xanga, MySpace, and Facebook, while also observing chatrooms, immersive online environments, and other sites of teen interaction. in addition to her online investigation, she traveled to ten different states to formally interview 94 teens in their home towns. Wherever possible, she used random sampling, and her involvement with technology companies gave her access to data not usually available to users. Her triangulation included her subjects–teens themselves–as she interacted with them about her research over the 2.5 years of her study. It also included adults within the communities where the teens she interviewed were located. No doubt that her intern, Sam Jackson, and other new media scholars also helped to shape her analysis and interpretations of these communities.

Her theoretical foundation is interesting to me, because without ever mentioning ANT she describes the importance of investigating networks of practice without privileging either online or offline environments, people, objects, or sites–but rather moving along all these axises equally (50-55). She bases this approach on the writing of Jenna Burrell, whom I will have to read. Like Mol and other Praxiographers, she also rejects the divide between subject/object as essence and representation, saying that the wired and offline lives of students are not equivalent to a show and a backstage reality, but are rather intertwined in their communal practices.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony, as I read Leon and Pigg’s article about “Graduate Students Professionalizing in Digital Time/Space.” In it they point out the way students are using their computers as tools to multi-task in research and professional networking–this, as I click back and forth between three PDF readings, my University email, Danah Boyd’s blog, and this WordPress draft. Do I, as Leon and Pigg found in other graduate students, feel guilty for my hours of virtual exploration? Well, I did, especially when I first experienced sitting down to do one task and three hours later found that I had about 50, but not finished the first I set out to do–but I think that a couple years of experience have relieved me of that anxiety. I now know that it is indeed more productive, at times, to allow yourself t be led on. At other times, pressure will provoke you to stay focused, so that you can, for example, finish a blog post due for class in a few hours ^_^. For another interesting perspective on this topic, see Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From Video, located in my “Animation Communication” blog post.

In “Your Views Showed True Ignorance: (Mis)Communication in an Interracial Online Discussion Forum,” Heidi McKee investigated a discussion which took place in blackboard regarding affirmative action and multiculturalism. Her methods included receiving permission from some of the students to quote their posts (82 out of 185), as well as personal interviews with the five major participants in the conversation. She asked the students how they would like to be represented in her article, explaining how she would describe herself: as a white middle-class woman who attended a predominantly white school. I think this was a great example of how ethnographers can share representational power with their subjects. I also felt that this was an interesting take on the “ethnography” as a genre–and felt that it did fall into a subcategory of the genre’s parameters. Perhaps the most excellent aspect of her paper is that it was hypothesis generating rather than hypothesis testing. She asked the students open ended questions, and her conclusions after the interviews were different than her hypothesis going into the study. She concludes that discursive writing practices can appear differently to different cultural and racial subjects, and what may appear tame to one group, may actually be very damaging to another.

In “Digital Hidden Transcripts: Exploring Student Resistance in Blogs,” Warren Mark explores a 15 year old student’s discursive resistance toward his teacher, exemplified in online writing. What may be unexpected about this study, is that Marc (the subject) is a student as the Fly High College, a school for boys in Singapore, where the author taught English for four years. I wish that there had been more discussion about the racial, linguistic, national, and economic implications of this interesting fact. Otherwise, Mark did an excellent job of incorporating the student’s own writing and voices into his work.

Stanford Study, Compositionism, and Ethics and Representation

If only every research project every conducted would publish their results in the organized and open format that Stanford has with their famous Stanford Study of Writing, which can be found here. All their methodological materials are available, for those who might wish to reproduce the study, and their background, methods, and research question are summarized in short, two-paragraph sections: Brilliant. Imagine what the field of (college) writing/composition would be if every major institution conducted the same study, maintained the same database–the knowledge accumulated would be fantastic. Here’s a cheers to rigorous, longitudinal methods of research.

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education provides a nice overview of the study’s reception as of 2009. In it, Josh Keller reference Katherine Blake Yancy, “a professor of English at Florida State University and a former president of the National Council of Teachers of English, [who] calls the current period ‘the age of composition’ because, she says, new technologies are driving a greater number of people to compose with words and other media than ever before.”  This is view is echoed by Bruno Latour in his article, “An Attempt at Writing a ‘Compositionist Manifesto'”, based on speech given at the  reception of the Kulturpreis presented by the University of Munich on February 9th, 2010. He argues that Compositionism may be an apt successor to the PostModern movement. Compositionism, he says,

“…underlines that things have to be put together (Latin componere) while retaining their heterogeneity. Also, it is connected with composure; it has a clear root in art, painting, music, theater, dance, and thus is associated with choreography and scenography; it is not too far from “compromise” and “compromising”  retaining with it a certain diplomatic and prudential flavor. Speaking of flavor, it carries with it the pungent but ecologically correct smell of “compost”, itself due to the active “de-composition” of many invisible agents…Above all, a composition can fail and thus retain what is most important in the notion of  constructivism (a label which I could have used as well, had it not been already taken by art history). It thus draws attention away from the irrelevant difference between what is constructed and what is not constructed, toward the crucial difference between what is  well or  badly constructed,  well or  badly composed. What is to be composed may, at any point, be decomposed.” (3)

Perhaps, if we can conduct more studies such as Stanford’s, which continue to investigate the multifaceted dynamics of writing, theories of composition might be generated which could in tern be applied to other disciplines’ generation and arrangement of knowledge, the way that Bruno Latour, and new media theorists’ have.

Although published in 1996, Ethics and Representation in Qualitative Studies of Literacy offers an excellent array of discussion on the classic qualitative methods issues, from seminal voices such as Patricia A. Sullivan and Lucille Parkinson McCarthy. Perhaps one of the most applicable chapters for my own future research was Blakeslee, Cole and Conefrey’s piece on negotiating subjective perspectives within ethnographic research (chapter 8), particularly when studying a community whose epistemological assumptions are foundationally different than the researcher’s. They used Blakeslee’s own experience researching physicists as a case study, particularly considering authority, scientific epistemology and how a text can be negotiated to ethically reflect the perspective of both the subject and the theories of the critic/observer. Like Sullivan (and Porter), the authors of this chapter acknowledge the fact that ethnographers can be neither fully authoritative, nor fully objective in analyzing their observations, but must acknowledge their subjective perspective and rely on others to produce an ethical, textual representation. My own study of the medical community will draw from these concepts.

Experimenting with Mixed Methods: Tinberg and Nadeau’s Study of Student Expectations

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Tinberg and Nabeau’s study on The Community College Writer: Exceeding Expectations. Theirs is a fairly broad investigation into the challenges facing first year college students, but essentially tries to understand how first year composition student’s experiences prior to and during their first semester in college matches up to their various teacher’s expectations .

The literature review and methods were both very helpful to me in demonstrating the process of composition research. Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I particularly enjoyed their combination of ethnographic and social-studies research methods. On page 17, Tinberg and Nabeau explain that their “purpose . . . is primarily descriptive: we intend to account for the nature of student writing tasks at college–and the degree of success achieved in meeting the writing challenge”; yet, in their literature review, they acknowledge that “research can be and out to be conducted on a scientific [read, positivist] basis, while at the same time grounded in specific writing situations” (15). Elaborating on what they mean by scientific: “producing replicable, well-designed research studies” which they hope to balance with “reproducing the specific and localized scene of writing.”

The question is, do their methods successfully facilitate this dual desire? I believe that the study does indeed produce valuable knowledge from which other institutions may glean applicable information for their own curricular design; however, I also believe that certain aspects of their methods could have been refined in order to ensure more consistently generalizable results.

For example: admirably, Tinberg and Nadeau administered their first student survey at four different institutions, in four different states. This was, in my opinion, very impressive in light of comp. research norms. However, their student cohort, from which the bulk of the study data was truly derived, was comprised of students only from BCC (Bristol Community College).

I think that because the study focused so much on the past experience of students, and particularly because the primary data was gathered at a community college, where students will most likely all be coming from one very specific town, city, or location, the data would have been much more generalizable if the PIs had followed through with their ambition to survey four very different institutions in four very different locations.

Tirrell’s Historiographic Cartography of Rhet/Comp


Tirrell, Jeremy. “Mapping a Geographical History of Digital Technology in Rhetoric and Composition.” Diss. University of North Carolina at Wilmington, 2009. Dissertations and Abstracts International. ProQuest. Web. 20 Feb. 2011.

Purpose, Genre, and Format

A Proof-of-Concept Dissertation, which provides a pragmatic demonstration of a theoretical claim, using a quantitative study.

Historiography in the format of a Social Science Study (Introduction, Methods, Findings, Discussion, Conclusion), accompanied by a the Digital Rendering of the collected Data–the proof of concept itself.

Methods of Data Collection, Representation & Interpretation

Written from a data perspective, using theorists’ “functional concepts and techniques” useful to his project, but not attempting to defend any particular philosophical stance (47). He pulls from English studies, Digital Media studies, Geographic and Architectural studies.

Did an analysis of six Composition journals related to digital technology, quantifying the significant, recurring terms which appeared in all issues between 1994-2008.

The journals are Computers and Composition Online, Currents in Electronic Literacy, Enculturation, Kairos, PRE/TEXT: Electra(Lite), The Writing Instructor.

Created two, integrated, thematic maps, using GoogleEarth platform,
representing two diachronic sets of data:

  1. a proportional point symbol map that plots the location and magnitude of relevant data
  2. a concept magnitude map that tracks the distribution and prominence of recurrent terms

Information can be viewed in layers, or all at once, and all data is plotted by year, so the viewer can slide the “time line” left and right to watch how the data changes threw time.

The map is dynamic and interactive, in that the audience can explore the data in different levels, and also in that data can be added to the system, in order to extend and continue the research and its rendering.

All data is publicly accessible in both online and offline formats. The Online Map location is http://www.mappingrc.com (however, the site expired on 2/27/2011).

Research Question/Concept Being Proven

Digital mapping technology offers us a new way of studying histories. In particular, the graphic representation of quantitative data can produce a qualitative understanding of historiography, which is impossible for solely textual work. While textual  historiography is limited to linear narrative-making through the close reading of people and events, digital mapping, although not superior to qualitative inquiry, provides valuable knowledge-making, by rendering a distant reading of multiple events and histories simultaneously (36).


Three very broad audiences

1. Rhetoric and Composition Scholars and Instructors: need to know our history of engagement with digital technology

2. Researchers: can adapt method of digital mapping

3. Administrators: can use map of department’s geographical diversity as evidence of institutional value

His literature reviews are primarily targeted to 1) Rhetoric and Composition–doing a lengthy review of the discussion surrounding historiography of Rhet/Comp and 2) Researchers and digital cartographers–with extensive review in the Methods section regarding cartography and the digital mapping of quantitative research.

Doesn’t assume that his audience has any background in digital cartography and the types of digital projects available online.

Grounding the Need for his Research

Tirrell goes to great lengths to argue for and demonstrate the use of his project on various levels. He does this by:

  • providing past precedents of very significant geographic mapping projects used by academics, the government, and grass-roots communities;
  • Citing philosophers and scholars within Rhetoric, Composition, Literature, and the Humanities who argue for the need of quantitative studies of the humanities and their history
  • Providing elaborate description of Rhet/Comp’s debates regarding the rhetorical nature of history, and history writing, arguing that his methods will provide a new and valuable form of historiography, which will practically benefit the field, as well as other fields in the humanities.


Post-Epistemology, or Rhetorical Epistemology, meaning that Tirrell rejects the post-positivist belief in a subject/representation divide or dichotomy (46).

For Tirrell, there is a real word which can be accurately known through quantitative measures. At the same time, he supports the fact that all knowledge production: textual, graphical, linear or simultaneous, is rhetorical in nature–meaning that the selection of information in necessary in any explanation, argument, or investigation human’s conduct.

He claims that histories usually privilege time and people as actors, largely because of the history’s grounding in text, and the need to therefore create a unifying, linear narrative, which cannot represent space. Tirrell suggest that geographic studies using quantitative data can tell more multiple histories, by showing where ideas appear and how they move over time. In this way, space becomes an active element of history, rather than a neutral container for human and temporal action.

Tirrell eschews the question of how we know and interpretation, however, by refusing to address the issue of causation, in favor of simply providing factual information which reveals correlation. He does not attempt to explain or investigate the material situations within the various locations he maps, but simply displays who said what, when.

What I’ve Learned from this Project

  1. A dissertation allows one to make many, many, arguments, about different topics, communities, conversations, and methods. This is accomplished by addressing your project in layers, and by providing the appropriate literature reviews for the various topics and communities you desire to speak to.
  2. Literature Reviews should be proportionate to the audiences you desire to attract/appeal to.
  3. Mixed methodology is accepted and encouraged within the Rhet/Comp field, especially when enacted in a meticulously thorough manner.
  4. Rhet/Comp researchers can build investigative tools which they intend to be used and revised by future scholars–COOL!
  5. If you are attempting to address several audience which would be considered interdisciplinary with your study, there will be large portions of your study which will be uninteresting to some of your audience members. The trick is to demonstrate that although some of your research may not be in a given audience one of your audience’s field, it is still rigorous, and relevant to the field.

Kairos Web Text Winer: Delegrange’s Epistemology of Arrangement and its Implications for Composition Research


Delegrange, Susan H. Wunderkammer, Cornell, and the Visual Canon of ArrangementKairos 13.2 (Spring 2009). Web. 17 Feb. 2011.

Audience and Rhetorical Stance

Mainly written toward computer compositionist and rhetoricians, particularly those following classical rhetorics; composition and new media teachers.
Written from the rhetorical stance of the researcher as inquirer and  teacher, working with and reinforcing a critical tradition.

Method of Inquiry

Scholarship: Philosophical deduction based on critical theory, textual analysis/example, but also qualitative investigation of historical and physical artifacts (Wundermakers and Cornell’s Shadow  Boxes, student research projects).


That digital media presents the possibility of arranging visual arguments which invoke wonder–a state of learning which happens at the suspended moment between ignorance and first understanding. She suggests that the history of wundermakers (wonder-) offers us a rhetorical theory of arrangement, based on the assemblegde of evidence that will encourage epistemological discovery through associative-connections, which will in turn encourage ethical action. the reader/viewer to explore various perspectives and make epistemological connections not possible without the specific arrangement.

Theoretical Backbone/Critical Tools

Aristotle’s Rhetorical Cannons–Arrangement (Dispositio)
Greek term, techne (explored by Heidegger) indicating the productive arts

Barbara Maria Stafford’s Visual Analogy: Consciousness as the Art of Connecting (1999) –offers a cannon of literary tropes which can be used to examine visual argument
Nicholas C. Burbules’s Rhetorics of the web: Hyperreading and Critical Literacy  (1998)–offers several terms and criteria for evaluating online work

Cites Madeleine Sorapure’s “Between modes: Assessing students’ new media compositions” Kairos 10.2 (2005)

Epistemological Stance

Postpositivist: based on the belief that knoweldge is made through human interaction and construction. Seeks to find ways to promote learning and knowledge-making through “wonder”–traditionally defined as a mental state of suspension between ignorance and enlightenment that “marks the end of unknowing and the beginning of knowing.”

“Constructing digital Wunderkammer thus becomes an embodied pedagogical perfor-mance, a strong model for a postmodern understanding of multiple perspectives and subjectivities. Through multi-linear, multi-modal visual arrangement and manipulation, they shape a path to rhetorical action through a technology of wonder.” (“Mental/Physical”)


  • 16th and 17th c. wunderkammers: cabinets of wonder or curiosity.
  • Rooms were made up of naturalia, artificialia, and scientifica. Scientifica included insturments of measurement–such as telescopes, mirror boxes, distorting lenses, and microscopes–placed within rooms which would allow audiences to investiagte or explore other artifacts within the collection (“Manipulating”).
  • Linnaeus’s classification system, a taxonomy birthed out of a wunderkammer (“Cabinets”).
  • Joseph Cornell’s bricolage art work, made of often random, fond objects, placed in artistic order.They consisted of physical artifacts composed of  “fact upon fact upon fact—that he accumulated about people, events, places, and phenomena” (Hartigan qtd. in Delegrange “Repitition/Small Variation”); an example of techne’s making as knowing.

    Cornell often revised his works, even those owned by others. He also provided “instructions” for owners on how to interact with his works–showing the knowing by doing aspect of techne media (“Making/Showing”).
  • DVDROM The Magical Worlds of Joseph Cornell that accompanies the centenary celebration Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay, Eterniday; A multimedia exploration where you can rotate and take apart Cornell’s works, read his diary, listen to voices of friends or curates, and look through his collections of unused materials.

“…from a perspective that values the particularity of multiple voices and embodied perspectives, there is no definitive path through the material on this DVD, no overarching ideo-logical or interpretive scrim through which the viewer is asked to understand Cornell’s work. It is a stunningly, excessively rich, visual, auditory and verbal space, an exemplar for combinatorial, knowledge-making pedagogical performances in manipulatable, multi-linear, new media.” (“Pulverizing”) (emphasis added)

Praxis/Application/Case Study

Delegrange’s intermediate writing students at Ohioh State use the concept of techne to create new media projects which advocate civic participation and service

“Students investigate their own environment; they collect, arrange, and manipulate evidence to gain multiple perspectives on a single building in their post-industrial downtown area; and they use this evidence to compose nuanced proposals for the use of urban space. . . . Arrangement thus functions as both a method of invention and a means of intervention, situated squarely on the streets and sidewalks of their home town.” (“The Assignment”)

The assignment has 3 steps:

  1. Collect primary, archival data about their location–“photographs, postcards, maps, deeds, advertisements, newspaper clippings”–and compose a power point chronicalling the building’s history.
  2. Collect their own primary data about the building–their own photos, and interviews with owners, inhabitants, employees, and patrons–and draw a use-map of the building’s current use.
  3. Create a final new media proposal advocating civic involvement and future use of the space they investigated.
    They ask themselves the following questions about each argument they construct:

What are the predominant similarities?  differences?
What seems to “go” with what? why?
How are different media related?
What is unexpected in this arrangement?
What is missing?

Delegrange provides a student’s project as a case study/example: Austin Hart’s work on the Ohioh State Reformatory (prison)

Performance of Argument

Delegrange successfully structures her web text according to the principles she theorizes in her argument: the new media arangement juxtoposes text, images, animations and a video in such a way that they compliment, support, and reinterpret one another.

The trope of the shaddow box is what dominates the text’s overall structure/use-map as a digital text. She suggests in her introduction that the sections of the text may be read in order, but that the nature of her projects suggests other paths

The case study at the end, that is, her student’s own project, is what made this article come to life as research–because one realized that she was actually teaching research methods as a form of knowledge-making within communities/contexts; this strongly supported her epistemological claims and scholarly research.

Implications for Qualitative Reseach: My Own Conclusions and Thoughts

Many of Delegrane’s arguments about arrangement and new media could be similarly applied to the craft of qualitative research:

  • She suggests that tools of measurement can act as elements of inquiry and draws attention to the markedly subjective, yet productive perspective that they offered in the wunderkammens.

“…when we look at the early use of such technologies as microscopes, magnifying globes, and refracting lenses, we do not find the hard distinctions made today between scientific and personal exploration…” (“learn/play”)

“These devices served as the articulating link, the connection between macrocosm and microcosm, that constructed and transformed simple resemblance into generous understandings of the relationships of the cosmos.” (“Manipulating”)

  • She implies that arrangement can inspire invention (rather than only the other way around). This is similar to Brooke’s argument, that new topoi often emerge from qualitative data, as one tries to arrange the various observations and experiences into a meaningful whole.
  • Joseph Cornell’s work, which she points to as a case study for mixed media production, was built out of “found objects” collected over time, and often encouraged an epistemology which connected the micro and macro understanding of places or ideas:

“Many of Cornell’s constructions made use of the evocativeness of the partly-seen, using screens with holes, frosted glass, layered paper and wood, sand, bottled objects, and mirrors to provide multiple perspectives while never revealing all, insisting that the viewer both accept the ambiguity and continue striving to construct meaning in the gaps.” (“Partly Seen”)

  • While Delegrane focuses on the new media aspect of her Intermediate Writing assignment, we might argue that the assignment requires students to do ethnographic, qualitative research of a space; they use archival data, explore the spaces themselves, and conduct interviews, in order to assess the value and potential of that space to a community.

Brooke and Latourean Inscription in Ethnographic Methods

Robert Brook’s chapter in Voices and Visions, entitled “Ethnographic Practice as a Means of Invention, Seeking a Rhetorical Paradigm for Ethnographic Writing” has no doubt been my favorite reading in methods of research thus far. As always, I find that Latour’s philosophy clearly elucidates the practice and process of research, especially as it relates to texts. Brooke uses Latour’s concept of inscription to describe three key moments in his composition process where the observation and articulation of his subjects was crucially shaped by his rhetorical needs and goals.

1) In his observation notebook, Brooke found that his comments about and vision of the classroom he observed were selective, based on a set of categories (heuristic topoi) which he was predisposed to conceive of, based on his field, past readings, and conversations with his teacher-subject.  In other words, his inventive process, by which he explored particular ways of understanding his subject, shaped how he observed and specifically, what he wrote down in his journal.

2) His daily notes, written after each observation, revealed Brooke’s attempts at meaning-making through writing, by more clearly organizing his observations into patterns, interpreting behaviors, making predictions, and labeling phenomena based on theoretical topoi.

3) A year later, Brooke’s composition of a CCC article from his data, involved negotiating meaning out of a tension between his own memory of an event, his data, and a very specific audience, while simultaneously trying to locate himself within the discipline to which he is speaking. These tensions actively shaped the articulation of his observations, his theoretical basis, and his argument.

I so appreciate the emphasis Brooke places on the difficulty these negotiations create for the author, who is attempting to condense, refine and sharpen meaning from such a vast body of observations, experiences, and thoughts. This is especially so, notes Brooke, for the ethnographer trying to speak to two separate audiences: an academic discourse community, and the community who was observed.

This last section of the article reminded me very much of two other texts: Dian Davis’s introduction to Inessential Solidarity, in which she meditates on the impossibility of scholarly conventions in the face of discussing metaphysical ethics, and Annemarie Mol’s book, The Body Multiple, in which she splits her text into two, simultaneous, parallel sections in an effort to address adequately both her ethnographic observations (placed on the top half) and the literature of theory and methodology (placed on the bottom). Such an extreme bifurcation of composition is the perfect example of the incredible tearing that the tensions Brooke describes can lead to within the writer’s mind–and I think Mol’s solution is a very creative and effectual one.

Another aspect of Brooke’s work which helped me, as an aspiring researcher, was the “behind the scenes” look that “Ethnographic Practice as a Means of Invention” gave, after having read “Underlife and Writing Instruction.” Although most ethnographies lay out their methods, I still feel there is a lot of process which is left like “the man behind the curtain” which the reader can only guess at (unless you’re Brooke, who like Toto goes and tears the curtain down!). Brooke’s three moments of inscription gave me a much clearer idea of what my own process of observation and composition might look like, on a practical level, while conducting a study. Additionally, his literature review in the beginning of the chapter is the most simply and clearly graphed picture of the field I’ve read yet.

Van Maanen, Genre Development, and its Relation to Paradigm Shifts

This week, our reading focused on works by Robert Brooke, Van Maanen, and continuation in Stake’s Qualitative Methods. This post will specifically discuss Van Maanen.

In Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography, Van Maanen lays out several sub-grenres of ethnography, which he calls “tales”, defined by their narrative and rhetorical  conventions. There are three major categories and four smaller ones we did not read about:

  • Realist: objectively toned, portraits of a culture; assume personal field’s theoretical beliefs and unapologetically use them to interpret culture.
  • Confessional: more focused on the narrative-making than the culture, per say;  often, the ethnographer is the hero, or center of a “character building conversion tale” (77); epic; acknowledges the limitations and difficulties of the researcher’s work, but having confessed them, still argues for the validity of their knowledge-making.
  • Impressionist: focus on particular moments of observation, told in a dramatic style; more interested in the non-normative case than the normative; rely less on theoretical interpretation, and allow the dissonance of the tale to provoke reader’s own conclusions
  • Critical
  • Formal
  • Literary
  • Jointly told

I especially appreciated his summary of how rhetorical conventions change withing the genre of ethnography:

“Only during the first third of this century did ethnography itself become a recognizable topical and literary genre set off from similar written products such as traveland-adventure stories, fiction, biography, social history, journalism,statistical surveys, and cultural speculation (Clifford, 1983a; Marcus and Fischer, 1986). Shifts within ethnography occurwhen, for example, new faces enter the field, novel problems areput forth, funding patterns change, or, of special interest here, new narrative styles develop as older ones fade and become somehowless convincing and true. 6 These changes may be gradual andmay pass without notice, or they may shock and awaken slumbering writers and readers of ethnography unprepared for the blurringor overthrow of previously uncontested ways of doing things.” (6)

I feel it would be safe to say that this process holds for most written genres of communication. A genre/field/method of investigation emerges as particular cultural interests intersect with problems of praxis and sponsorship to create a new disciplinary matrix from which new ways of speaking and writing, crystalize, so that epistemological negotiations can continue to move forward. Van Maanen’s description of the evolution of ethnography is almost the Composition parallell to Kuhn’s description of paradigm shifts in science, with the Latourian notion of articulation /enrollment. But of course, that’s the rhetoric of science scholar coming out in me.

A final note: last week, syntaxfactory posted a thread on Blogora about “accidental cannon formation” in methods of research. We might see Van Maanen’s study of the rhetorical patters in various ethnographic methods as different types of delivery tailored to particular audiences, to garner ethos within those communities (certainly this makes up a large portion of Van Maanen’s analysis).