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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 12 months ago


Numerous studies have suggested that the ecology of communication common to both universities and the contemporary global workplace has sustained an enormous increase of information. Dubbed "information overload" by some, this burgeoning production of information presents novel challenges and exciting opportunities for the teaching of rhetoric and composition to undergraduates and the creation of novel forms of collaboration in a University Without Walls.


First, the challenges: Awash in ubiquitous information, students and citizens read less and less. The skills of close and attentive reading encouraged by traditional rhetorical curricula, where students are taught to look at as well as through texts in order to understand their possible effects upon audiences, have withered as students become less readers than browsers. In "indigenous" contexts of our glbalizing planet, the rote practices of literacy education can often supplant the highly participatory (and more than "oral") communications particular to a culture, especially practices of memory and history. Increasingly connected to a screen, the forms of attention necessary to understand [the choices] available to any given writer in any given context and medium atrophy as we begin to surf rather than read.


Upon graduation, students will be called upon to write and communicate in primarily digital environments. In contexts such as the World Wide Web or corporate Content Management Systems writers compose in response to unprecedented global admixtures of audiences whose browsing habits mirror their own. These audiences also in some sense cease to be audiences at all, as distinctions between "author" and "audience" intertwingle in the collaborative writing environments and online forums of the global corporate workplace and National Security State as well as the University Without Walls. As writing becomes more interactive and less authorial, readers are also challenged - they must somehow evaluate the claims embedded in enormous quantities of information that emerge collaboratively as much as they are written. Associational thinking - as in the much discussed link between Al Qaieda and Iraq -seems to be the norm in a hypertextual infoscape where argument often proceeds as much through the html link as it does from paragraph to paragraph. Perhaps it is not surprising that this ecology of parataxis often produces rhetorrs who can give numerous claims, but cannot sustain those claims with reasons. Rather than supporting a claim, many contemporary rhetors simply repeat it. Ironically for a rhetorical environment composed of links, writers are often incapable of articulating the connections between a claim - such as "I support the invasion of Iraq" - and the reasons supporting such a claim.

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