Being Cyborg, Teaching Writing: Figuring a Feminist Practice in the Computer Composition Classroom

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Title: Being Cyborg, Teaching Writing: Figuring a Feminist Practice in the Computer Composition Classroom
Author: Pinkston, Ashley Nicole
Advisors: David Rieder, Committee Member
Carolyn R. Miller, Committee Chair
Patricia Lynne, Committee Member
Abstract: Over the last three decades, feminist scholars in composition and rhetoric have been invested in the project of finding an effective subject position for feminist writing instructors from which they can speak, be heard, and teach, because these feminists understand the broad impact of teacher-identity in the classroom, influencing teacher and students' perceptions, dynamics of class discussions, and interpretations of texts in the class. At the same time, feminists in composition and rhetoric have also been working to better understand relationships between gender, writing, and technology. Yet, to date, feminist researchers in the field have not considered the problem of situating the feminist instructor's subjectivity in the context of the computer composition classroom. As a first step towards figuring an effective feminist subject position from which to teach in the technology-rich classroom, this study takes up the tasks of theorizing how cyborg subjectivity can shape the feminist pedagogue's 'way of being' in the classroom, of discussing the practical implications of being cyborg for feminist pedagogues, and of situating feminist cyborg-teachers in the context of the computer composition classroom. This study reviews composition and rhetoric literature and reveals that, though cyborg theory has been appropriated to theorize the activist potential of the teacher-researcher, to critique computer mediated communication, to re-conceive traditional rhetoric, and to inform new pedagogies, previous appropriations have been criticized for not effectively addressing real people's material concerns and various identities and have not fully realized the oppositional potential of feminist cyborg theory. In order to overcome the limitations of and challenges to cyborg theory in previous research, this study rearticulates cyborg feminism through the lens of Chela Sandoval's work in Methodology of the Oppressed. This study establishes a kinship between Haraway's cyborg characteristics and Sandoval's methodology of the oppressed and draws out the implications of reading Haraway alongside Sandoval for figuring a feminist practice in the computer composition classroom. The first key implication is that, through trickster/differential movement, cyborg pedagogues can adopt previous metaphors for feminist composition pedagogy as equally viable temporary tactics and move among and between any number or combination of these 'ways of being' without allegiance to any particular one. We can conceptualize a possible menagerie of feminist metaphors, such as mother, midwife, bitch, laughing medusa, netgrrl/geekgrrl/riotgrrl, through which cyborg teachers can trickster-shift. The second key implication is that, by employing Haraway's cyborgian skills or Sandoval's oppositional methodology, cyborg teachers can read, critique, and transform ideologies affecting their practice, paying special attention to ideologies informing the various feminist metaphors within composition and shaping their relationships to technology. I offer a practical scenario that follows a hypothetical instructor through the process of analyzing the mother, bitch, and midwife metaphors in the technology-rich composition classroom, considering when and why to shift from one tactic to the next, and transforming these tactics when needed. Paying attention to the tensions and ambivalences engendered by the relationships between technology and each stance, I address how each stance would feel for the feminist instructor in the technology-rich classroom and how each stance could be both empowering and limiting in the computer composition classroom. Though moving differentially through the feminist menagerie poses several risks and highlights several potential sites for future research, I conclude by asserting the importance of being cyborg, teaching writing. By considering technology as part of the subjectivity of the teacher, we can ensure that we participate in constructing the relationships between ourselves and our technologies and we can refuse to allow machines invisible power over our choices, behaviors, and knowledge.
Date: 2004-11-29
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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