Case Study Theory Rubric

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The theorist is clearly identified as Foucault and the theory is explained in excellent detail. I would assign this case study a 4 for theory.

Theoretical Understanding:

Laurie makes it well known that genre theory would have been better suited for her case study than Foucault, outlining the Foucauldian analysis’s limitations. Despite these limitations, Laurie shows mastery of the theory by highlighting the theory’s key attributes and existing application.  Because the case study includes all of these elements, I would assign a 4 for theoretical understanding as well.

Application to OoS:

The OoS is clearly identified in the first paragraph as the interviews of notable academics. Laurie fully applies a  Foucauldian analysis to these interviews and notes why certain aspects of the analysis, such as issues with discourse application, were not entirely helpful when completing the study. I would give Laurie a 4 in this category as well.


Overall, Laurie crafted a well-researched and clearly explained case study. I did not find any inconsistencies when judging the case study by my rubric, which leaves Laurie with a 12, the highest possible scoring. If you would like to read Laurie’s case study as well, and I encourage you to do so, you can find it here.



Case Study Comments

As part of our assignment this week (technically rolled over from last week because it was forgotten), I commented on two of my lovely classmates’ case studies on their respective blogs. For your convenience, I have posted my comments below, as well as links to their blogs.


First, I applaud you for tackling a Foucauldian analysis, which is never a simple task. I found your case study very clear and well supported and I appreciate how you separated the study into levels of nodes. Your visualization also clear and concise and married well with your case study. Excellent read!


I love how creative your OoS is! Your case study is very thorough and you offer two clear, helpful visualizations. The only thing missing is perhaps more support from Popham and Miller, who are mentioned but not clearly outlined for support. Overall excellent work!


Writing Outside the Lines



This weeks readings all focused on writing outside the lines, on freeing oneself from current restraints in order to improve one’s writing and analytical skills. While the idea to “write outside the lines” is not new, these pieces attempt to outline this idea with original theories. Let’s just say that some of the texts succeeded and others fell a bit below the mark for me.

 Nostalgic Angels

The first reading consisted of chapters from Johndan Johnson-Ellola’s Nostalgic Angels. Johnson-Ellola bases this text around the belief that society needs to redefine writing since our world has evolved to included hyper-texts (p. 6). For Johnson-Ellola, the boundaries presented by present society and culture must be pushed and eventually crossed. He writes on page three that:

Writing constructs implicit and explicit boundaries between not only product and process and said and unsaid, but author and reader, literacy and orality, technology and nature, self and other. Although we often build these borders in order to help us assert a disciplinary identity, these same borders also threaten to marginalize us.

Johnson-Ellola outlines other important concepts and terms through out the text, which I have complied for you below.

Key Concepts:

  • “By necessity, we must negotiate a technology in relationship to our histories,” in other words we must take our history and our current technologies and create something new outside the boundaries (p. 9).
  • Borders are essentially hinges, a place where texts can contradict themselves (p. 13).
  • There is a lot of possibility with hypertexts, since they can be changed according to the situation (p. 23).
  • People become writers (or better writers) through reading texts that continually change based on borders and boundaries.
  • This theory is also applicable to teaching, because it allows students to enact their own change through reading and writing and allows teachers a way to approach social issues (p. 185).

Key terms:

Traditional texts: “First-person essays, literature and literary criticisms” (p. 5)

Mundane texts: “Online documentation, databases, and informal notes passed from person to person” (p. 5)

Hypertext: Textual form of technology that is ever changing

Postmodernism: “Then becomes less the idea of removing all borders and more the activity of questioning and remaking borders in relation to real cultural conditions (with the understood caveat that “real conditions” are complex, contradictory, and not given to us by simple social classes…)” (p. 16)


While reading these chapters, I started to experience deja vu. Towards the end of the last chapter, Johnson-Ellola begins to discuss worker creativity (on page 234 to be specific). This concept harkens back to Spinuzzi, who also felt it is important to embrace the workers and their ideas.

Of Two Minds & Othermindedness

The second author for this week was Michael Thomas Joyce, who wrote Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture (Studies in Literature and Science) and Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics (Studies in Literature and Science). For sake of brevity, I will combine both text summaries here since they follow similar concepts and theories. Essentially, Joyce believes that hypertext readers change the text by the order in which they read it. Sound familiar? If you read my summary of Johnson-Ellola’s Nostalgic Angels, it should. I must admit though, after this familiar concept, Joyce completely lost me. He continues by sectioning the theory into different the different elements, such as wood or light. This was a very trippy read, and I will most certainly need to read it again after my mind has had time to recuperate. For now though, I will direct you to the one essential key term I found in these chapters.

Key terms:

Co-evolutionary Process: “new knowledge processes and new tools evolving together in real working environment” (p. 22).


Moving on from Joyce, we enter the wonderful world of Bruno Latour. The third text for this week was chapters from Latour’s Reassembling the Social. Latour, though confusing, actually makes more sense than Joyce. Latour outlines his main goal as wanting “do in the present work is to show why the social cannot be construed as a kind of material or domain and to dispute the project of providing a ‘social explanation’ of some other state of affairs” (p. 1). Latour’s main concept is easy enough to understand, surprisingly, and does not require a “key terms” section like the other readings. Essentially, “social” refers to the connection between to things, instead of the distinction between them. This idea is solidified in Latour’s Actor Network Theory, which is outlined below.

Key terms:

The five uncertainties (p. 22):

  • The nature of groups: there exist many contradictory ways for actors to be given an identity
  • The nature of actions: in each course of action a great variety of agents seem to barge in and displace the original goals
  • The nature of objects: the type of agencies participating in interaction seems to remain wide open
  • The nature of facts: the links of natural sciences with the rest of society seems to be the source of continuous disputes
  • About the type of studies done under the label of a science of the social as it is never clear in which precise sense social sciences can be said to be empirical

Actor Network Theory (ANT): Social theory that is focused on individual actions and the connections between objects (networks)


Though I am familiar with Reassembling the Social from Modern Rhetoric, I read Latour differently this time after reading our other theorists. Latour echoes Prior et al, Miller, and oddly Bazerman (with his activity systems). Honestly, Latour was easier to digest the second time around and I have a feeling I should read him again later in the semester. After all, the this week has taught us that the text changes each time you read it and in turn, makes you a better writer.

Works Cited

Joyce, Michael. Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 1995. Print.

Joyce, Michael. Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 2000. Print.

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

Canons and Venting: Thoughts That Go Boom!


Re-mediating the Canons

My first reading for class this week was “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity.” This publication was written by: Paul Prior, Janine Solberg, Patrick Berry, Hannah Bellwoar, Bill Chewning, Karen J. Lunsford, Liz Rohan, Kevin Roozen, Mary P. Sheridan-Rabideau, Jody Shipka, Derek Van Ittersum,  and Joyce Walker (whew!). In this text, Prior et Al suggest a new rhetorical mapping activity that ” acknowledges advances in our understanding of language, semiotics, human development, technology, and society” (pg 2). The authors feel that while the classic canons (see below) may have been sufficient in Ancient Greece , this is no longer so (though they hint on page 3 that the canons were not sufficient then either).

Five classic canons:

  • Invention
  • Arrangement
  • Style
  • Memory
  • Delivery

Key Concepts

Prior et al begin to revise the classic five by noting the fall of “delivery” and “memory.” They suggest that these two canons changed when people began writing things down instead of exercising their minds by remembering. While reading this particular section, I could not help but think of Plato’s Phaedrus, which I just read for the first time in English 539. Imagine my delight when the authors relate their observation to Plato as well! At this point in the text, Prior et al use Plato as a segway into discussing audience, a rightful canon that has been ignored until now.

Prior et al address how including audience would expand the canons into a new dimension of investigation, since rhetors often plan their orations and writings around certain audiences. A rhetor’s audience can affect how a text is delievered (orally, textually, etc.) and how the piece is taken. By page 12, Prior et al have added Distribution and Reception to the canons in light of this belief (see updated diagram below).

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Prior et al, 2005

The text and concepts develop even further, until the authors arrive at a final, and much more detailed, descriptions of the proper canons (see below). These canons are divided into subcategories of literate activity, functional systems, and laminated chronotopes. You’ll notice that “literate activity” is very similar to the classic canons, while the other two focus on either  physical or emotional elements.

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Prior et al, 2005


The basic concepts outlined above accompany an extensive list of key terms, which I have narrowed down to the most essential terms below. I included the page numbers, in case you would like to find more specific detail concerning a specific term.

Key terms:

Black-boxing: “the process of producing established facts or unproblematic elements p. 14

Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT): “the emergent synthesis that has brought together Vygotskyan psychologyy, Voloshinovin and Bakhtinian semiotics, Latour’s actor-network theoryy, and situated, phenomenological work in sociology and anthropology” p. 17

Mediated activity: “means that action and cognition are distributed over time and space among people, artifacts, and environments and thus also laminated, as multiple frames or fields co-exist in any situated act” p.18

Socialized: people are brought into alignment with others p. 18

Production: “the tools, practices, and contexts that shape the formation of text” p. 20

Representation: “the way a discourse is entextualized in talk, text, and mind”

Distribution: “the way particular media, technologies, and social practices disseminate a text and what a particular network signifies”

Reception: “actual reading/viewing/hearing and response” p. 21

Socialization: ” the making of people and the making of society in concrete history”

Activity: “the more or less durable, goal-oriented, motivated projects that lead people to cooperation indifference, and conflict”

Ecology: “the biotic and natural world”

Primary Indexicality: “getting people’s attention” p. 25

After a brief intermission of listening to and watching School House Rock videos on, I tackled the second reading for the week ( I suggest you watch my personal favorite in order to cleanse your intellectual palette before moving on).

Nobody Told Me


My second reading for the week was Liz Rohan’s “Nobody Told Me that College Was This Hard!: ‘Venting’ in the Grad Stacks.”  When I saw that this “article” was actually spread across 31 slides, I panicked a bit. It was getting late and I was afraid I would not have the energy to follow along for that many slides. I was delightfully proved wrong, as I am sure you will be too. Rohan’s presentation starts in a musty, unappealing library study room ( a place I am all too familiar with thanks to my tour in Academia). She begins to describe the wall vent, a place that has become a place for students to write and communication their frustrations with each other. Thus the term “venting” is born (full definition and context outlined below in “Key Terms”).

Key Concepts

I must say, I related very closely with what Rohan relays in this presentation (so much so that I annoyed my poor boyfriend by reading large block quotes that struck my fancy). Instead of seeing “venting” as vulgar and disruptive, Rohan sees it as a kind of time-resistant art form, a way to communicate and connect with others in other years and decades. She writes that “these very ordinary texts tell stories about what it’s like to live in a particular time and place, who might care and why” (pg 8). In other words, “venting” in that musty study room created a time machine in written form (hence the lovely Doctor Who reference above). Instead of vandalism, Rohan notes that this type of graffiti, and any similar expression movement,”is considered important cultural work and thus a persuasive genre”(pg 19). I loved how poetic and how real this connection between time and people became.

Rohan does not just focus on the artistic elements of this creative form, however, she also relates the concept/movement to Aristole’s topoi. Venting becomes almost its own genre of writing (I just knew Carolyn Miller would pop up again!), since Rohan uses the topoi as a way to categorize the comments on the vent. She writes that the topoi is shaped by the time and place the writer is in (see page 24).  Something shared with other “venters,”such as the weather, the exam they are studying for, or an overall sense of confusion at becoming an adult.

Below, as always, I have outlined the key terms in the piece (luckily Rohan kept her list short).

Key Terms:

Classic rhetoric: the rhetor is “the main agent for text production” p. 5

Venting: originally writing a feeling on the grooves of a vent. Now refers to sharing displeasure with another person, “a system of composition in which the rhetori s one agent” “A system for memory keeping and memory making” p. 25

A side note

I was also very pleased to see that Rohan mentioned Speak. I read this book in Adolescent Literature during my undergrad and I highly recommend it. Before you buy it here, get a box of tissues too.

End Thoughts

Overall I was very happy to read this weeks assignments and was thrilled to find so many connections to other readings, other classes, and personal emotion. If you would like to read these texts as well, and I highly encourage that you should, please refer to the Works Cited page below.

Works Cited

Prior, Paul, et al. “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-historical          Remapping of Rhetorical Activity.” 2005: 1-29. Web.

Rohan, Liz. “Nobody Told Me that College Was This Hard!: ‘Venting’ in the Grad Stacks.”2007: 1-31. Web.



Case Study #1 Duckfaces, Political Messages, and Cats: Genre Theory Applied to Facebook Profile Pictures

                                                                                                                                                           Fig. 1                                                                                                                                                                         

Deciding on a theory for this first case study was difficult, as each theory discussed thus far in class applies to Facebook profile pictures in some form or fashion. While Genre Theory does not allow discussion of every element of the Object of Study (OoS), it does provide a sufficient lens for analysis of the actions behind posting a specific profile picture on Facebook. Carolyn Miller writes in Genre as Social Action, “a rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish” (p. 151). For this initial case study, I will use Miller’s approach to Genre Theory to outline the implications and intentions that surround choosing a specific profile picture for one’s Facebook page, as well as how this particular lens defines the OoS’s networks and corresponding nodes. For a detailed description of the OoS itself, please refer to Fig. 1.

As Miller suggests, the action behind the substance is more important than the substance itself within Genre Theory. Using this definition, the intent, or idiosyncratic motives, behind posting a specific profile picture is more important in this case study than the picture itself. Because an individual can select any image as his/her profile picture as long as it adheres to Facebook’s policies, the individual has an opportunity to choose an image that he/she believes best represents him/her or his/her relationships with others. The various intents behind this choice, as well as the power relationship associated with the photograph or image, determine which genre is associated with the profile picture.

The first genre is the “selfie,” or a photo taken by oneself of oneself. This photo is usually chosen as a profile picture because it encompasses a fair amount of power for the individual. This photo was intentionally taken by the individual to show that he/she is independent, which shows emotional and physical strength. This genre also allows the individual to chose elements for the photo that highlight what he/she would like the networks to associate with him/her, such as attractiveness, independence, other desirable personality traits, and interests.

The second genre is the candid photo, an image taken by a trusted person (often family, friend, or significant other) of the individual when he/she is not anticipating a photograph being taken. When an individual chooses a candid photo for his/her profile picture, he/she is often trying to invoke a particular reaction from the networks, such as camaraderie. This choice also shows a high level of trust between the individual and the person who took the photo, since the power in this genre is shared. While the individual still has the overall choice to upload this photograph or not, the individual did not have input into the photographs creation.

The third genre is the icon, an image that is not a photograph of the individual but rather an image that represents the individual. This image may be of the individual’s pet, favorite band, political affiliation, or any other non-personal image that depicts the individual’s interest. This genre has the most power for the individual, since he/she has decided not to share his/her personal likeness with the networks.

The individual’s idiosyncratic motives behind choosing the perfect profile picture are influenced by how the individual thinks the networks will react to the image he/she selects. These reactions can be considered nodes within the networks. The nodes can vary based on the reactions from various members within the networks, some may be jealous while others may be encouraging or cheerful. The nodes are represented in various ways through out the networks, through Facebook’s “like” and “comment” functions. Friends within various networks can also share the individual’s profile picture, which can create more nodes in different networks based on further reactions. Because of how easily the nodes travel, they can either strengthen or deteriorate the friendships that develop the networks. One of the main reasons the networks deteriorate is because the original content, the profile picture, can be completely distorted based on who shares the image and why the image was shared. This thus affects how the networks emerge, grow, and dissolve.

A network can emerge when a person is intrigued by an individual’s profile picture. This person may be attracted to the individual or believe they have shared interested based on the image associated with the individual’s Faebook page. If the individual agrees with the person about the attraction or shared interested, a virtual friendship begins and a new network is established. A previously established network can grow based on the same principle, if the new friend fits into the network’s requirements. A network can also dissolve, however, based on negative nodes. If a network is offended by the individual’s profile picture, the network may decide to “unfriend” the individual and sever contact.

As the reader has noticed, Miller’s approach to Genre theory has similar parallels within the Facebook community. This theory allows one to discuss the connection, intent, and reaction within various Facebook networks and the relationships between nodes within said networks. Miller’s approach provides a way to look past the profile picture itself, and determine what effects the individual’s intent or idiosyncratic motives cause within the various networks that make up Facebook. This theory does not, however, allow one to apply judgment to the profile picture itself, only to the action behind the individual’s posting. I plan to develop this discussion further in future case studies by applying theories that allow for such judgment.


Works Cited

Miller, Carolyn R. “Genre as Social Action.” Quarterly of Speech 70 (1984): 151-167. Digital.

Genre Theories: From Victims to Victimhood

"Nice design but you haven't quite mastered the technology!"

For class this week, we were charged with reading Clay Spinuzzi’s Tracing Genres Through Genres Organizations. Through out the text, Spinuzzi discusses various elements of genre tracing and outlines the concept’s significance, although a compact definition of the term is not given. After reading page 4, I quickly realized that Spinuzzi’s text would not simply define a theory, but instead attempt to answer why design fails and how workers might better approach information design. Spinuzzi starts this discussion by highlighting that “workers produce solutions that are devious, wily, and cunning, but often these solutions do not involve a deep understanding of the system” (p. 20). While workers are clearly intelligent and can offer excellent solutions to programming or procedures, they are often placed in a “victimhood” for not fully understanding the technology at hand.

Spinuzzi also notes that “the user designs that have most often been adopted are those that cast workers are victims and designers as heroes” (p. 4). While I believe there is a slight typo in this quote (I would replace “workers are victims” with “workers as victims”), this quote well defines “victimhood.” Victimhood, one of Spinuzzi’s key terms, is where workers are down-graded to people who don’t understand the technology well enough to develop better programs. Below I will outline and define other key terms and key concepts that are essential to understanding Spinuzzi’s argument.

Key terms:

Workers: Those who use a given technology

Method: “a way of investigating phenomena” (p. 7)

Methodology: “the theory, philosophy, heuristics, aims, and values that underlie, motivate, and guide the method” (p. 7)

System-entered Design: Formalist, Controlled, Modernist (found on p. 7)

User-centered Design: Social Constructionist, Collaborative, Postmodernist (found on p. 7)

Fieldwork-to-formalization Methods: Bridge organizations and disciplines through descriptions of the work

Organizations: Those who need or produce information systems

Disciplines: Researchers and designers

Formalizations: “the models, categorical descriptions, and sequential descriptions” that communicate findings and describe future systems (p. 17)

Centripetal Impulses: (Here Spinuzzi borrows from Bakhtin) A urge for stability and control, draws inward p. 20 Bakhtin

Centrifugal Impulses: (Here Spinuzzi borrows from Bakhtin) A urge for resistance and chaos, pushes outwards

Moment-to-moment operation: “reflexes, and habits on which workers draw as they carry out their labor” (p.  34)

Artifacts: Remnants of a “historically developed activity” that stabilize activities when used (p. 39)

Compound Meditation: How workers utilize certain artifacts to complete a job

Genre Ecology: Group of related genres that help people achieve goals by mediating a specific activity

Genre Perception: “The understanding of an artifact in terms of genre” (p. 69)

Destabilization: Gaps that occur within an activity

Hybrid genre: “genres that emerge from the unification of two or more disparate activities” (p. 160)

Key Concepts:

Three Levels of Scope (outlined on p. 45):

  • Macroscopic: Activity, genre as a social memory and action
  • Mesoscopic : Action, genre as a tool, a strategy, and/or tactic
  • Microscopic: Operation, genre as habits, rules, structure, and/or cognition


At the end of the book, Spinuzzi leaves us with a familiar, but slightly altered phrase. He writes, “these workers are inventive, wily, devious, sly, cunning, and crafty. And they deserve to be heard” (p. 223). We are reminded that the workers are intelligent and, at this point in the book, I strongly agreed that they need to be heard. Not all workers make technology harder on themselves (like the lovely gentlemen who chose to try to use updated and old technology together) and those who are innovative should be heard (like the resourceful post-it lady who made the technology work for her).


When reading Spinuzzi, I could not help but think of Carolyn Miller from my post last week. In her text, Miller defines genre theory as “a rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish” (p. 151). Spinuzzi also places great importance on the action behind the substance, especially when discussing the second level of scope, Mesoscopic (see key terms above). I have a feeling Spinuzzi and Miller would agree on quite a few things, using genre theory and genre tracing to move the workers out of victimhood and into the light.


Works Cited

Miller, Carolyn R. “Genre as Social  Action.” Quarterly of Speech 70 (1984): 151-167.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres Through Organizations. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003.