Thursday, March 16, 2006

Presenting at 4Cs

A large percentage of the few readers of this humble little blog are fellow writing teachers, who might be at 4Cs in Chicago next week. I'll be presenting on this panel:

Bringing Techne Front and Center: Examining the Materials of the Art of Writing
J.13, Friday, 3:30–4:45 p.m., Salon 2, Third Floor

Chair: Janice Lauer, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  • Pender Kelly, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, “Writing inLate Postmodernity: Contradictions of the Art”
  • Shaun Slattery, DePaul University, Chicago, IL, “The Tool Side of Techne: ‘Habits of Mind’ vs. ‘Habits of Mediation’”
  • Karl Stolley, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, “A Techne for Artful Choices in Digital Writing”
Here's a sneak preview...
In a further investigation of the role of materials in an art of writing, I argue that most modern treatments of techne (usually translated as art or craft) focus solely on the writer’s “habits of mind.” Recent research into mediation, however, suggests a new approach to theorizing techne. Complex activity, such as writing, can also be influenced by immediate environmental conditions, such as the texts writers surround themselves with as they write. This researcher’s recent study of writers’ use of texts and technologies while composing suggest techne is as much a way of doing as a way of thinking. This view is consistent with classical articulations of techne, which included examples of such material production as shipbuilding. This view is also consistent with Activity Theory which undergirds recent studies of mediation and argues that internal ways of thinking and external tool-use are mutually constitutive. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this view suggests that teachers of writing should be attentive to mediated composing processes including the use of information technologies.
In particular, I'll focus on how techne offers some attempt at control over contingency in complex information environments.


Jay said...

Hi -- I'd be very interested in seeing a full version of what you presented. This is Jay Gordon, whom you cited in a PPT presentation I found online. I am always interested in attempts to "modernize" the concept of techne. (My article tried to do something like that, although I'm not entirely happy with how it turned out-- it was written a bit stiffly and I'm not sure it was as clear as it could have been.) Email me at if you have a chance. Your paper sounds like it was very interesting-- especially in bringing into focus this dimension of "doing" as opposed to "habit of mind" in our thinking about techne.

Shaun said...

Hi Jay -- Great to "meet" you. I obviously enjoyed your piece in TCQ (11.2, 2002, pp.131-147). My 4Cs slides and speaking notes are available here:

metaspencer said...

I hope the presentation went well. I had another obligation at the same time so missed it -- but I hope to catch another prez sometime! :)

Shaun said...

The talk went well, Spencer. My co-presenters Kelly Pender and Karl Stolley (and here) had some interesting things to say about techne. A good conversation ensued with great questions from the audience.

Paulo said...


I read your blog whenever you post new stuff. I also look through some of the older posts as well.

I have a question for you about mediated writing processes. Perhaps it's more about what's available than the theory behind it, but I'm not having much luck in finding what I need.

I work as a software administrator (although my degree is in writing), and I'm learning new things every day. I'm constantly taking notes and writing down my questions. What I think we might benefit most from is a software or website that facilitates an ongoing dialog between a select group of people, almost like a less-than-instant message program where a different user can go into the text of a question and update the answer, add information to a previous answer, etc. I would like to see signatures, also, for the purpose of tracing the knowledge back to its source for followup.

I don't want message boards. They're not only sloppy, but my staff is less than likely to sign in to one and use one. Besides, I need to make sure that the information being exchanged is not public.

Any ideas?

Shaun said...

Here's the reply I emailed to Paulo:

It sounds like the best technology to meet your needs is a wiki.

Wikis enable collaborative writing and editing and can even retain records of all changes made to the group authored text. I've not learned to use wikis myself just yet, but knowing the activities they support, they seem to be just what you're looking for.

Wikipedia (a collaboratively authored encyclopedia) offers an excellent conceptual overview and links to useful resources. That's where I'd start if I wanted to learn more quickly: