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Hart-Davidson, "What's Dis'course About?" (abstract)

Hart-Davidson responds to an anxiety expressed by Myron C. Tuman in Word Perfect: Literacy in the Computer Age (Pittsburgh, PA: U of Pittsburgh P, 1992). Tuman asks what "we" as educators and citizens are in danger of losing as writing comes to mean linking words with pictures, video, and sound. Hart-Davidson restricts his "we" to the community of those already integrating computers and writing. This group must perforce argue with writing teachers who scorn or eschew computers. His community needs to promote a "richer-than-print approach to writing" while securing access to the necessary networks and computer facilities.

Hart-Davidson is frustrated by this continuing need to justify the expenditure of limited computer resources upon writing instruction. He grows weary of defending the links between online conferencing in writing classes and what is perceived as "real" writing. Two strategies are recommended. The non-computer-writing people often speak of the need to teach the "writing process." If the process is more important than the product then networked writing gives the benefit of eliminating the importance of final drafts which must be printed and submitted. Or the opposition may be convinced by the example of the business world, to which undergraduates aspire, which relies upon computer-mediated writing. The first approach examines what is to be taught: process or product. The second examines the goals of teaching writing to undergraduates.

The movement toward a broader definition of literacy becomes a question of teaching "writing." Those who resist should call their courses "print conventions and culture." Rather than answering Tuman's anxiety over change, Hart-Davidson raises the spectre of resistance to the ineluctable. (Norman Owens.)

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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: http://umn.edu/home/mh/ebibno2.html

Comments to: mh@umn.edu

Created 22 May 1995

Last revised 17 September 1996