Margaret A. Syverson discusses the ways in which a theory of composing situations as ecological systems might productively be applied in composition studies. She demonstrates not only how new research in cognitive science and complex systems can inform composition studies but also how composing situations can provide fruitful ground for research in cognitive science.
Syverson first introduces theories of complex systems currently studied in diverse disciplines. She describes complex systems as adaptive, self-organizing, and dynamic; neither utterly chaotic nor entirely ordered, these systems exist on the boundary between order and chaos. Ecological systems are "metasystems" composed of interrelated complex systems. Writers, readers, and texts, together with their environments, constitute one kind of ecological system.
Four attributes of complex systems provide a theoretical framework for this study: distribution, embodiment, emergence, and enaction. Three case studies provide evidence for the application of these concepts: an analysis of a passage from an autobiographical poem by Charles Reznikoff, a study of first-year college students writing collaboratively, and a conflict in a computer forum of social scientists during the Gulf War. The diversity of these cases tests the robustness of theories of distributed cognition and complex systems and suggests possibilities for wider application.
About the Author
Margaret A. Syverson is the director of the Computer Writing and Research Lab in the Division of Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the web editor for the Computers and Composition Journal Online and also president of the Board of Directors for the Center for Language in Learning.
Table of Contents
|List of Figures||xi|
|1||Introduction: What Is an Ecology of Composition?||1|
|2||Thinking with the Things As They Exist: Ecology of a Poem||28|
|3||"Next Time We're Not Giving Steve Our Essay to Read": Ecology of Writers||75|
|4||Desert Storm on the Network: Ecology of Readers||126|
|5||Conclusion: Implications and Proposals for an Ecology of Composition||182|
|A||Syllabus and Journal Questions for Third College Writing Program, 1A, Winter, 1989||211|
|D||Correlations Between Events of the Gulf War and XLCHC Messages||223|
|E||Distribution of Participants by Location, Discipline, and Gender||235|
|F||Example of a Completed California Learning Record||237|