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.

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