Book Review List: Any other ideas?

I don’t entirely know why, but I’m really quite behind in planning my English 516 class, which starts tomorrow night. The good news is I’ve taught this class several times now, so getting my act together shouldn’t be too difficult to do. The bad news is, because it is a graduate course in computers and writing and I’ve always placed a pretty high value on “currency” in the course, I inevitably have to make changes and do new research every time I teach it.

Anyway, in that spirit of things, I’m looking for some suggestions. I’ve had a lot of luck with a book review presentation assignment in past versions of the class. Basically, students pick from a list of current books that have to do with “computers and writing” in some direct or slightly indirect fashion, and each of them does a 15 minute or so presentation on the book and then writes a short essay. It’s turned out to be a useful exercise for me as both a teacher and a scholar because, like my students, I learn more about books I wouldn’t have necessarily read otherwise.

So, this is this year’s list of possible books to review; do you have any suggestions?

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media.
MIT Press, 2000. (Steve’s comments: Interesting book, very much about "cyberculture"
and fairly theoretical, too).

Carr-Chellman, Alison A. (Editor). Global Perspectives
on E-Learning : Rhetoric and Reality
. SAGE Publications, 2004. (Steve’s
comments: Judging from the table of contents, this looks like a pretty interesting
collection of essays about online learning/teaching from around the world).

Gee, James Paul. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and

Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. (Steve’s comments: This book comes highly recommended
from several friends and colleagues, was favorably reviewed by a student last
year, and we will probably be reading a selection from this book in the class
this term.)

Hayles, N. Katherine, and Anne Burdick. Writing Machines (Mediaworks Pamphlets).
MIT Press, 2002. (Steve’s comments: Hayles is a very theoretical writer, and
the reviews suggest that this book is a melding of "pseudo-autobiography"
and theoretical reading of the way electronic publishing has changed texts.)

Hocks, Mary and Michelle R. Kendrick, Editors. Eloquent
Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media
. MIT Press, 2003. (Steve’s
comments: This is actually an edited collection of essays, but given the way
that it connects with the Wysocki textbook, I thought it’d be nice to include
as an option here).

Inman, James. Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era. Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 2004. (Steve’s comments: Inman is a fairly well-known and respected
name in the "computers and writing"
community. Probably a focus on higher ed and theories of writing).

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Datacloud: Toward A New Theory
Of Online Work
. Hampton Press, 2005. (Steve’s comments: Johndan is an interesting
blogger and scholar in the field, so I suspect this will be an interesting read,
probably leaning toward "technical communication").

Kress, Gunther. Literacy in the New Media Age. London: Routledge Press,
2003. (Steve’s comments: Kress is a great writer and his previous work focuses
on "Language Arts," education, technology.)

Lessing, Lawrence. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the
Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity.
Penguin Press, 2004. (Steve’s
comments: Recommended by a colleague, though I’ve picked up this book at store
myself a few times. As the title suggests, the focus here is more on media and
culture and not on teaching).

McGann, Jerome. Radiant Textuality : Literature after the World Wide Web.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. (Steve’s comments: Brand-spankin’ new book which
seems to be as much about "literary theory" as it is about the web.)

Meadows, Mark. Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative. Pearson
Education, 2002. (Steve’s comments: Highly recommended; the focus seems more
on the uses of "interactive/multimedia" narratives in "writings"
in general– not really about education).

Mossberger, Karen; Caroline J. Tolbert, and Mary Stansbury. Virtual
Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide.
Georgetown UP, 2003. (Steve’s comments:
according to, "That there is a "digital divide"—which
falls between those who have and can afford the latest in technological tools
and those who have neither in our society—is indisputable. VIRTUAL INEQUALITY
redefines the issue as it explores the cascades of that divide, which involve
access, skill, political participation, as well as the obvious economics").

Monroe, Barbara. Crossing the Digital Divide: Race, Writing, and Technology
in the Classroom.
Teachers College Press, 2004. (Steve’s comments:
Pretty new book that looks like a promising read).

Palloff, Rena M. and Keith Pratt. The Virtual Student: A Profile and Guide
to Working with Online Learners.
Jossey-Bass 2003. (Steve’s comments: Highly
recommended, a focus on K-12 and "education," not just English studies.)

Rice, Jeff. Writing About Cool : Hypertext and Cultural
Studies in the Computer Classroom
. Longman, 2003. (Steve’s comments: Jeff
teaches at Wayne State and is definitely trying to push the envelope in terms
of hypertext, cultural studies, and teaching writing).

Rouzie, Albert. At Play in the Fields of Writing: A Serio-Ludic
Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005. (Steve’s comments: Judging
from the Hampton Press web site, this looks like an interesting and new book).

Selber, Stuart. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Southern Illinois
UP, 2004. (Steve’s comments: Selber is a well-regarded "computers and
writing" scholar.
The focus here is almost certainly higher ed.)

Warschauer, Mark. Technology and Social Inclusion : Rethinking the Digital
MIT Press, 2004. (Steve’s comments: Warschauer is a pretty well-known
academic writer about these issues; this is his latest book on the subject
of the digital divide.)

Whithaus, Carl. Teaching And Evaluating Writing In The
Age Of Computers And High-Stakes Testing
. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005.
(Steve’s comments: I actually read a review of an earlier version of this manuscript,
and it is pretty much about what the title suggests).

4 thoughts on “Book Review List: Any other ideas?”

  1. Here are a few to think about:

    Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals
    and the Next Episode of Capitalism
    Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin

    Bill says “Zuboff’s In the Age of the Smart Machine, ignored for nearly ten years, turned out to be tremendously influential to our field. This one shouldn’t be ignored so long.”

    Tracing Genres through Organizations : A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design
    Clay Spinuzzi

    Bill says “Last Year’s Winner for NCTE best book in Technical Communication”

    The Myth of the Paperless Office
    Abigail Sellen & RHR Harper

    Bill says ” I am always stumping for this one, but it really is important for our field. The study contributes very interesting views on reading and writing in the contemporary bureacracy that we so often invoke as the site we are preparing our students to work within”

    The Social Life of Information
    John Seely Brown & Paul Duguid

    Bill says “This one, like a few others on this list, are not brand new but amount to contemporary classics not to be missed similar to the Bolter & Grusin selection on Steve’s List”

    The Future of Ideas : The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World
    Lawrence Lessig

    Bill says ” I like this one better than Free Culture…but that’s just me”

    Interaction Design for Complex Problem Solving: Developing Useful and Usable Software
    Barbara Mirel

    Bill says “If it seems to you like this book isn’t in our field, then you are not getting it.”

    …that’s enough for now!


  2. Good suggestions, but keep in mind that the emphasis in this class is on pedagogy. Obviously, there’s overlap/room for these things that are more “tech comm” oriented, but I’m not sure that the students would necessarily pick them.

  3. Ah yes…we have no pedagogy in Tech Comm.

    I think all of these selections have much more of a role in “mainstream” writing pedagogy of all stripes than folks generally give them credit for. They tend to talk about the general state of literacy today in the context of a knowledge economy…the same one all of our students will vie for positions within.

    In a world where grandmas are signing up for RSS feeds so they can watch their grandkids grow up and folks are blogging from their mobile phones, the literate landscape our students live in is grossly underestimated by conventional composition pedagogy.

  4. No, I said that wrong before. Let me try this again:

    We have two strands/options in the written communication program here at EMU. One is in technical communication, and the other is in the teaching of writing. The “tech comm” program is designed for students who are working in and/or who want to work in the area as a technical communicator of some sort. The teaching of writing program is designed both for area secondary school teachers and for students interested in pursuing a degree that might lead to teaching in college. So it’s a question of emphasis.

    Having said that, I get a fair number of students in technical communication in this course, which is one of the reasons why I’ve broadened the list from what it was previously. So I’ll probably include some of these things here that you suggest, too.

    BTW, as for the “world where grandmas are signing up for RSS feeds:” my experiences at EMU over the years has proven that the technical literacy and abilities of students vary dramatically. Sure, I have students who come into this (and other) classes with web sites and blogs up and running and who seem a pat of this technically sophisticated landscape, I have just as many students (maybe more?) who are still pretty unexperienced/unclear about anything beyond email and google. And this range makes it tricky, of course. But interesting.

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