Constructing my prospectus – Reflecting on the Research Network Forum at CCCC 2009

I’m back from San Francisco now, and I have to say that it was a truly incredible conference. I met so many fascinating people, and encountered so much rich information. Hopefully, I’ll be posting several entries over the next week or two about what I saw at the conference. First, I want to reflect a bit about the Research Network Forum.

As many of you already know, I’m in the process of putting together my dissertation prospectus, and I need to be thinking about my disciplinary interests, research questions, methodological options, material conditions, and my own investments and politics. Before attending the forum, I put together a short intro/overview of my project with some questions I’m still working through. I’m including it below. In a day or two, after I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on some of the comments and conversations I had about this proposal, I’ll post some thoughts about where my project currently sits, and how I might tackle some of the blindspots I’m encountering.

If any of you might be generous enough to comment on this entry, especially into the listed questions, or even offer some relevant readings, I would really, really appreciate it. I’m trying to go info-rich for at least another week, before I put the finishing touches on the first draft of my prospectus.

Here’s that info I distributed at the forum:

Locating Sites for Productive Administrative Discourse on Digital Literacy Initiatives

Goal: The primary goal of my project (dissertation) is to offer a materialist critique of the ways scholar-administrators construct the term digital literacy (or literacies) to audiences both within and outside of our discipline. I am particularly interested in the relationship between these rhetorical constructions and the perceived material conditions from which they emerge.

Methodology: The bulk of the project will be a set of case studies focusing on a small number of writing programs which have been working to implement significant programmatic changes regarding new writing technologies. I will be using surveys, conducting interviews, and analyzing documents produced by program administrators regarding resources for funding initiatives for digital literacies.

Bruce Horner’s Terms of Work for Composition.
Andrew Feenberg’s Transforming Technology
Cynthia Selfe’s Technology and Literacy in the 21st Century: The Importance …
Diogenes and Lunsford’s “Toward Delivering New Definitions of Writing”
Miller and Hammond’s representations of their work with Writer’s House at Rutgers.

Question 1: What sorts of data might be most useful, and how do I go about defining them? (I’m thinking about the sorts of documents scholar administrators produce to argue for a change or redefinition of writing, especially those designed to accommodate “digital” writing practices and technologies. Possibly: Mission statements, annual reports, letters/flyers/emails advertising the new program (and, possibly, related space or technology), scholarship related to the initiative published in non-rhet/comp publications, any documents involved in the genesis of these efforts which have resulted in overt changes in policy or affecting resources.)

Question 2: Are there other methodological models focusing on the ways scholar-administrators represent themselves and their programs? (I know of Diogenes and Lunsford’s chapter in the Delivering Composition collection edited by Yancey, and I know there are likely some examples in the WPA Journal, but I’m wondering about other examples, maybe even from outside our discipline? Mostly, I’m hoping to find examples which focus on these sorts of documents as their data.)

Question 3: I’m thinking that interviewing the authors of these documents whenever possible. But I’m also wondering “How important it is it to interview the recipients of these documents?” Part of me thinks that this is a bit of a different project. I’m more interested in what these constructions reveal about how these terms operate in our discipline.