Monthly Archives: February 2014

Putting Humpty Together Again

Brought to you this week by the syllable “re”: — reconstitute, reassemble, repopulate, remember, repudiate, reintegrate, relive, remediate.

Pause for a nostalgic reconstitution of my childhood, remediated through YouTube, linked to a new node, in a network of thought co-created by me, Morgan Freeman, Jim Boyd, Luis Avalos, YouTube user NantoVision1, all the gaffers, grips, editors, directors, make-up artists and others on the original video, the servers, routers, switches, and proxies on the Internet, my MacBook, WordPress, your browser and device, Verizon’s towers, Comcast’s fiber-optic cables, and your own memory and imagination.

This week’s reading grouped together hypertext theory: Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Michael Joyce (with significant nods to Jon Lanestedt and George Landow, particularly their In Memoriam hypertext on Tennyson) and Bruno Latour’s introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Reassembling the Social. There’s also a healthy dose of post-Marxism and late capitalism punched with Freirean and Girouxian critical pedagogy, and, thanks to Latour, some significant snark.

Shouts of jubilation when reading in Johnson-Eilola that he had “moved through postmoderism and into cultural studies and critical pedagogy” (7) and that instead of a project of undoing and unraveling, we would instead be examining how “borders are constructed, to deconstruct those borders, and — perhaps most importantly — to rearticulate new positive mappings” (7).  It’s the way I teach writing and reading (which, as Johnson-Eilola and Joyce both note, are one and the same in the technology mediated world). First: we break something apart into small pieces to examine each one. This is analysis. Then we put the pieces back together again in new ways, using our understandings from looking at the parts (which we could not have seen while it was whole) to evaluate, criticize, and understand the whole again, parts of the whole. This is synthesis. They go together. We don’t take apart the gas grill or the computer or the car engine  just to do it. We do it to understand how it works, how the parts come together to produce something useful and meaningful. We may be looking to diagnose what is “wrong”, or we may be looking to replace a part that isn’t functioning optimally. Or we may simply be trying to learn how it all works together, the importance of each part, the  movement between them, the unity they then create. We do not tend to leave the parts deconstructed on the table: we disassemble to reassemble. Our theorists this week speak to this reassembly and reconstitution, noting that the item reassembled is never the same as the one disassembled, no matter if  you get all the parts back in the same place. The context, instantiation, memory, and other interacting factors will be different, and the item itself is only a single node or ‘actor’ or ‘object’ in a network of temporo-spatial contingencies (hmmmm…. a chronotope?) which will never occur precisely the same again. In fact, the notion of nostalgia is a longing for a time that never existed, as the past is remediated through our memory, a reconstitution of a moment selectively reconstructed, placing our present-day self there interpreting it, looking forward.

Johnson-Eilola takes pains to remind us that texts and technologies are political structures and activities, not “naturalized” or “easily demarcated” or “isolated objects” (17). Texts represent ideologies, which are “lived relations produced and reproduced in and through social structures” (43). Using Althusser and Hall’s articulation theory, Johnson-Eilola demonstrates that borders can be constantly remade, binaries undone and re-juxtaposed, and that “boundaries are not fixed, but always open to connection in more than one way (often at the same time)” (43). He posits that hypertext makes these postmodern principles manifest and visible. That the boundaries between writer/reader/society are fluid, that identity is dispersed, and, unlike postmodernists such as Lyotard, Baudrillard, Derrida, and Foucault, who delight in demonstrating that texts are ultimately disembodied signifiers and inchoate difference, there are instead moments where these signifiers “congeal” into real, oppositional forces that regulate and oppress. To deny this cohesion is to have agency and identity and dissent absorbed and countermanded. Instead of debates between product and process, subject and object, etc., we can accept “yes, and”, that there are both, simultaneously, that identity and agency and text are dispersed, but that they come together in patterns of geometry and geography which attempt to embody and explain, but fail to completely do so as they are artificial representations.

The most important quote/concept from hypertext theory seems to be this: Jamesonian concept that the totality of postmodern space is ungraspable, and cannot be mapped either geographically/narratively, nor geometrically/cartographically. Rather, a new “cognitive mapping” is the process of “interplay” between “real” and “imaginary”, mediated by texts and tools, as nodes in this network. Jameson says, and Johnson-Eilola and Joyce corroborate, that the challenge of navigating the postmodern is “how to situate the relatively dispersed self into an active, social matrix at the conjunction between geography and geometry” (171), between space and time, in the interplay, in the flux, in the interstices.

 “Every node in a hypertext can function both as a presence and a productive absence, assuming meaning not by what it holds but by its relationship to other nodes in the text and to the larger cultural, linguistic text.” (Johnson-Eilola 234-5).

It is the subjectivity of the user/reader/writer/player that creates the temporal unity and meaning out of the contingent possibilities presented. Saussure’s concept of the “suture” makes sense here: the role of the human interpreter to “stitch together” a narrative, an individual and societal rhetorical meaning from the infoglut surrounding us. From this conflated existence, we read/write our world and navigate within and among the co-constructions of others, in a continual dance of fluid meanings. Joyce would call us “nomads”, using Deleuze and Guattari’s term of being “always between two points, but [in which] the in-between has taken on all the consistency and enjoys both an autonomy and a direction of its own” (D&G, qtd. in Joyce Othermindedness, Ch. 4, 67). Other metaphors might be, from Joyce, living in the intermezzo, or in the caesura (life as a pause between two phrases) or in the gap.

Mind-The-Gap-BankWe are neither on the platform, nor on the train. We are in this space of “doubt, perplexity, multivalency” or “aporetic multiplicity” that can be dangerous and paralyzing as “the paths are so multiple we cannot choose which way to go” (Joyce, Othermindedness, 69).  Yet we cannot stay in the gap, we cannot remain perched on the threshold between past and future, between what is lost and irretrievable and what is unknowable. We live in this continuous present where we are always stepping out, making choices on our path. The train whisks us away to the next stop, where we pause and assess and decide again.

Variable output decision tree

A variable output decision tree in computer programming.

Meanwhile, we decide, and branch off, and create our new paths, and randomly access memories and read/write from the hard-disk of our lives and those of the lives we encounter. We are post-human, or we are more human than ever before, just with new ways of expressing that which ever was.

Works Cited

  • “Binary Decision Diagram” from Binäres Entscheidungsdiagramm. Wikipedia Germany. Web. 24 February 2014.
  • “Denslow’s Humpty Dumpty” Licensed for reuse. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
  • Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. Nostalgic Angels: Rearticulating Hypertext Writing. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Pub. Corp., 1997. Print.
  • Joyce, Michael. Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995. Print.
  • Joyce, Michael. Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. Print.
  • Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.
  • “Mind the Gap” image from Licensed as usage. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Theoretical Application Rubric –> Summer’s MMO Guilds

Ah, rubrics. Ah, humanity.

Discussion of Creating Rubric

Tasked with developing a rubric for an assignment that was already completed, and applying it to content created by collaborative colleagues, rather than developing a rubric prior to the assignment and using it for content created by students who are in a more hierarchical position, I first thought about what the tool should do. I decided that it should be a generic set of questions that advanced thinking about the theory and its application, and set up a framework for a true assessment, which, as authors in Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation and elsewhere have noted, should be hyper-local to reflect the exigencies of a particular assignment, the culture of the institution in which it is situated, and the population being assessment.  Since the requirement was for it to be a rubric about applying a theory, and not a theory of networks per se, I did not feel that I could start at the logical place, with  the questions asked of us on the first case study, reflecting the parameters of the assignment:

  • How does the theory define your object of study (as a whole, broken into pieces)?
  • What and/or who is a network node?
  • What types of agency are articulated for various types of nodes?
  • How are different types of nodes situated within a network?
  • What are the types and directions of relationships between nodes?
  • What happens to content or meaning as it travels through a network?
  • How do networks emerge, grow, and/or dissolve?

While normally I would have turned to assignment objectives and guiding questions, such as those above, because so many of the questions were directly related to networks, and not application of a theory, I took the first question: “how does the theory define your object of study, as a whole and broken into pieces?” and used that as the basis, breaking that question down into component parts that I divided into two main categories: articulation of the theory and its context, and application of the theory to the object of study.

Daniel and I collaborated on a rubric as we thought it would make sense to both develop a rubric and apply a rubric developed by another (both of which are required in teaching).  I began with the categories and a draft of the questions; Daniel and I discussed and tweaked questions/attributes, and he added a third category regarding local instance of the OoS. I then added the Gold, Silver and Bronze categories below, as a way of rating each category, while he used them as the binary “Yes” or “No”.  We posted the link on our Facebook group, and Amy and Jenny also visited the rubric to offer some comments.

Blank Rubric:
Rating: (with figure skating analogies. I will not be the Russian or Ukrainian judge.)

Gold — Clear, sound, complete, cogent, says something new. You had the difficulty and landed the jumps.

Silver  — Mostly clear, some gaps or rough patches, tends to repeat what is known but may have surprising insights at places. Possible two-footed landings and moments of stumbling, but the crowd loves you and the overall impression is positive; took some risks to earn reward.

Bronze — More nascent view, larger gaps in explanations, reasons; ideas are sound but could be improved with more “fleshing out”; you’re at the games and at the right competitive level, you have the moves, but this particular performance doesn’t demonstrate your full potential.

Theory Clearly Articulated and Contextualized


  • Whose theory is it? Who is the theorist?
  • What is the definition of the theory, its main premise?
  • What are the key attributes of the theory?
  • What are the limitations of the theory?
  • To what theories or theorists is the theory indebted or built upon?
  • Where does the theory fall in a spectrum or in relation to others?
  • What is the theory’s importance to the field?
  • Are there canonical or well-respected applications of the theory?

Theory Clearly Applied to Specific OoS and Explained

  • Is the OoS contextualized and explained?
  • Is there clear correspondence of theory attributes to OoS attributes?
  • Does the author explain which portion of the theory is used and which discarded and why?
  • How does the theory illuminate the OoS? What new aspects does it allow us to see?
  • How does the theory change our view of the OoS?
  • What are the limitations (blind spots) of this theory as applied to this OoS?
  • How does this theory application add to the body of knowledge re: this OoS or the discipline?
  • Are the conclusions drawn re: the theory logical and sound?
  • What is gained as a result of using this theory?

Theory Mapped to Local Context (Praxis)

  • Local context(s) to which theory can be mapped are identified
  • Specific person(s) responsible for activated mapping
  • Social and political boundaries defined by theory are identified
  • Aspects of theory mapped to specific lived experience
  • Anticipated social action to be achieved by mapping;
  • Assessment process of localized mapping defined

Rubric Applied to Summer’s Case Study of MMO Guilds

I felt a bit awkward using the rubric with a classmate’s work, as rubrics connote “assessment” rather than “feedback.” I don’t have a problem giving critical constructive feedback that may point out that the item is at the “silver” or “bronze” level, but giving it that label implies a grade that I don’t feel qualified to give, and I don’t want to risk a collegial relationship by appearing to be superior (the position from which assessment generally comes). Thus, I qualify that these are my impressions, and that the levels of Gold, Silver and Bronze are all “top finishers” who are on the podium, distinguishing themselves from the field. My attempts to identify areas of where further attention might be given may point out flaws with the reader and her understanding rather than the writer and hers.

Theory Clearly Articulated and Contextualized


  • Whose theory is it? Who is the theorist?
  • What is the definition of the theory, its main premise?
  • What are the key attributes of the theory?
  • What are the limitations of the theory?
  • To what theories or theorists is the theory indebted or built upon?
  • Where does the theory fall in a spectrum or in relation to others?
  • What is the theory’s importance to the field?
  • Are there canonical or well-respected applications of the theory?
Bronze  Brief mention of the theory and a single quote. Mentions again at the end but most discussion is of the guilds themselves. Concepts such as felicity, genre, typification, or Bazerman’s overall take not explained or contextualized.  Thus, it is difficult to know what Bazerman is saying and how Summer is considering Bazerman’s premises (her interpretation of them).

Theory Clearly Applied to Specific OoS and Explained

  • Is the OoS contextualized and explained?
  • Is there clear correspondence of theory attributes to OoS attributes?
  • Does the author explain which portion of the theory is used and which discarded and why?
  • How does the theory illuminate the OoS? What new aspects does it allow us to see?
  • How does the theory change our view of the OoS?
  • What are the limitations (blind spots) of this theory as applied to this OoS?
  • How does this theory application add to the body of knowledge re: this OoS or the discipline?
  • Are the conclusions drawn re: the theory logical and sound?
  • What is gained as a result of using this theory?
Silver Summer does a great job explaining what guilds are, what they do, how they operate, and the difference between game-global and game-local (although I think that distinction is lost some in the discussion). I remain uncertain how the various parts of a guild, such as a perk, an application, the bank, the discourse, the mentors, correspond to parts of Bazerman’s theory and I am not sure how Bazerman helps me understand guilds in a different way.

Theory Mapped to Local Context (Praxis)

  • Local context(s) to which theory can be mapped are identified
  • Specific person(s) responsible for activated mapping
  • Social and political boundaries defined by theory are identified
  • Aspects of theory mapped to specific lived experience
  • Anticipated social action to be achieved by mapping;
  • Assessment process of localized mapping defined


 This is part of our rubric, but not necessarily part of the assignment, so it is understandable if it would not appear. Summer hints at the idea of “game-local” in the beginning, so I hoped I would have Bazerman’s concepts illustrated with an actual instance of game-play in a guild, where I could see the concepts in action. In such a short case study, though, this is impossible, and thus would be something for continuation if this approach were expanded. Screen shots and embedded videos helped with demonstrating a local instantiation of the game and guild activity.

Discussion of Applying Rubric

I found it somewhat difficult to apply the rubric to the Case Study #1, since the assignment was not for a full application of a theory (which is the rubric I developed) and was more of a “sandbox” attempt at moving toward a full application of a theory. Thus, it doesn’t seem it *could* have scored Gold, since the writer wasn’t asked to do all that the rubric asked. However, applying the rubric did help me identify and quantify some gaps in Summer’s Case Study, which did a fantastic job explaining the Object of Study (which would have to be done in any article or research piece about it) but spent less time in the theoretical lens being applied, which was the object of the assignment. Summer did a great job using hypertext to extend her text without impinging on her word count parameters, so that guilds could be defined and examples of applications provided. She contributed to my understanding guilds and how they affect play in WoW, but I was unable to learn how these guilds are a genre system, and I left the case study still hoping for a discussion of this very interesting premise: “Bazerman’s theory of speech acts and systems of human activity can define the local level of MMO guilds through interactions between players and the cohesion and disruption felt once those interactions begin to collect into trends and movements”  (emphasis mine). What Summer has set up in this discussion is the clear proof that the WoW guilds are an object worthy of study, that they are a network of people articulated primarily by speech acts, and that this network influences game play and player affiliation. I still want to hear HOW. I hope she explores this further.


Lastly, I think the rubric that we developed is helpful in  thinking about the components required in applying a theory, and striking the balance between enough context and explanation of both the theory itself and the OoS, and spending enough time tying the two summarized and contextualized pieces (the theory and the OoS) together. It helped me clarify what I need to do with my own Case Studies.

Image from:

Le mew, Le purr, Le CHAT

Je pense en français ce semaine, après de visiter le pays. J’ai mangé trop, et je suis très fatigué, mais Paris est belle. Alor, je retourne à l’anglais maintenant. Merci pour me l’ecoute!

Mon Popplet est ici:

This week, I added information from Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and Prior et al’s remaking of the rhetorical canons into three levels of activity. I attempted to connect those three levels to Spinuzzi’s three levels: Microscopic, Mesoscopic and Macroscopic. I began to wonder if the would correspond, with acculturation and external motivations  corresponding (laminated chronotropes) corresponding to the level of strategy and the big picture of social action. I did not connect this to the social action node on my network, though, as I believe there are two definitions of social action at work throughout these texts: one that is complicit with the dominant discourse and one that is resistant.

I’m in the process of mediating and remediating my thinking via this mindmap. It is becoming a laminated chronotope of layers of my thinking, with various embodied constructs; an externalization of my internalized thoughts as I interact with the activity system created by this course. I am the subject, interacting with an object (CHAT theory) and the objective (to map my thinking), using artifacts (my computer, Popplet), guided by rules (of the assignment, of the encoded capabilities of Popplet), with a motive (understanding, good grade, esteem) and my labor is evidenced via this distributed knowledge that is the Popplet, which is part of my blog, which is part of the class blog, which includes my classmates’ blogs, which links to other content on the web. My cognitive processes are, then, mediated by this interaction.

I’m beginning to think of LARP mechanics, costumes, and utterances as “tools”, which are “embodied constructs” and maybe that is a way to think about the non-diagetic elements creeping across the game boundaries to influence play. If the tools/artifacts themselves contain these constructs, then the game is a lamination, a layering of them, brought into “play” through their use. Thus players are constantly mediated by their culture; but that would be out-of-game and in-game capital and situation.



Mindmap, mindmap, why do I forget thee?

Check out my newly updated Mindmap here:

This time, I added some information about Activity theory and Spinuzzi’s main concepts of centripetal and centrifugal forces in communication; designer-as-hero/user-as-victim; and macro/meso/microscopic.

I spent time asking questions on the Popplet, so I see these as temporary Popples, a place to park  my thinking as I try to connect the various theorists together. It seems to me that there are moments of unity that converge around an object, and that various theorists call this by different names. There also seem to be tensions that create the structures, which would not exist without the tension. A genre (or a manual, or an SOP, etc.) seems to be like the “skin” on the top of a glass of water. Transparent, existing but not always seen or thought of, a boundary that is crossed seamlessly in order to enact or demonstrate an action.

I’m also beginning to think that Bitzer-esque desires to categorize and create genres is an impulse of most rhetoricians, and that the creation of such theories and “boxes” and “structures” is necessary to generate the discipline. It’s about creating boundaries and staking claims.

Lastly, I made a big Popple called Deviance, because I think that this is going to be even more important and a place of convergence, but I’m not sure how yet.

Image from:

OOSing Along (de Paris)

I read and commented on Amy’s Case Study on Freshman Composition MOOCs using Hardware/Software/Network theory, and on Jenny Moore’s Foucauldian analysis of La Leche Network.

I enjoyed Amy’s post because she is doing some interesting thinking about the components of networking as related to teaching and technology. It made me clarify my thinking related to hardware and software, particularly with regard to a single CPU and its internal bus and a router regulating nodes on a network. I think there are multiple ways of applying the network concept  related to pedagogy; the diameter of the network will be based on how you apply the concept. Is the classroom function as a network, or the course? What is the diagram of the network? Is it star/radial, tree, or mesh? These decisions matter in terms of visualizing a network as an analogy, which is part of what Foucault seems to be talking about with his interrogation of the choices, processes, relationships, and “unsaids” involved in discourse.

Jenny’s post was an excellent exploration of Foucault’s concept of the tree of enunciative formation as a network that maps how La Leche League functions as an organization with a National/International office and local branches. I appreciated how Jenny discussed the organization through discourse: through the 10 philosophical principles of La Leche, as opposed to an organizational chart. Although they mirror each other somewhat, Foucault was moving away from structure and into the dynamic relationship among principles engaged in discourse, and I think Jenny gets this distinction well. My only thought was that Foucault, I think, might chafe at the idea of this network being mappable as a “unity”. The map seems to be a moment in time; a monument or “capture” of the enunciative formation at a given moment, and not a “map” or “document” or “entity.”

I look forward to seeing where Jenny and Amy take their projects with further theory.

Image from: (OOS means out-of-specification … which is an interesting angle to think about when applying a theory. Where might it go awry? )



Foucauldian Analysis of Live-Action Role-Playing Games as Networks

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc and submit comments there.


Live-Action Role-Playing Games (LARPs) are a type of interactive role-playing game in which the participants portray characters through physical action, often in costume and with props. LARP is distinguished from cosplay, where individuals demonstrate affinity and allegiance to a particular character within a fandom through authenticity in dress and manner; historical re-enactment, in which costumed participants embody and bring to life historical figures and events; and creative anachronism, where participants create their own characters based on history, genre or a particular time period. The distinction arises primarily because LARPing involves elements of a game – plot, goals, conflict, points and other in-game capital, and stakes for the character – which are regulated through various structures created by game designers, writers, and game masters (GMs). Boffer-style LARPs, which use homemade weaponry made of PVC pipe covered in foam and duct tape to enact combat scenes, are more about weaponry, hand-to-hand combat, battle strategy and adrenaline than theater-style or freeform LARP, which focuses more on character-building, and storytelling. Often called Interactive Storytelling or Interactive Literature, theater-style LARP uses a system of game rules adapted from table-top role-playing games in order to determine position within the game, advance plot points, create more authentic characters and settle conflicts. These “mechanics” are ways that the Game Masters (GMs) control the game environment to keep it fun, safe, and interesting while enacting the plot. Mechanics are rules of engagement and also unbreakable actions and codes within the game itself. They are intended to “level the playing field” by augmenting a participant’s physical and mental skills to more accurately portray their assigned character in the world of the LARP.  Mechanics are also used to artificially impose limits and to circumvent the human nature of participants who may behave over-competitively or proffer unwelcome sexual advances or harassment. Lastly, mechanics are used to mitigate the tendency of players to bring socio-cultural stereotypes or dominant discourse into the realm of the game.

Foucault’s theories relate to my Object of Study because Live-Action Role-Playing games (LARPs) exist in a realm of delimited concepts and enunciative formations. LARP is a “formulation” (p. 107), or “an event that can always be located by its spatio-temporal coordinates, which can always be related to an author, and which may constittue in itself a specific act” or “performative act” to use the British term (p. 107). As the author, the Game Master sets up a situation and characters are created; the game is a “verbal performance” or “linguistic performance” produced on the basis of language and other signs (costumes, props, theatrical effects) that takes place in an actual physical location with tangible boundaries, at a specific time (spatio-temporal coordinates). The game exists as a series of statements used in a discursive formation. The statements create the reality of the game; the statements execute the play. The game become real through enunciative formation and meaning is derived through the play and interplay in the game. Meaning is constituted temporally and contingently, depending on the discursive practices (and all the relationships, constructs, prior knowledge, etc.) of the characters. Gameplay is constructed relationally, not individually. And then it is over, and if one looks to the documents left behind (character sheets, rules, scenarios) one can never recreate or even understand the discourse that was the game. The archive of the game, which may be found in a wiki, game scenarios, character sheets is a positivity of discourse that is marked profoundly by absence. It does not contain what was said and enacted relationally among the players, who are nodes on a network exchanging information. It exists as a monument to the game but not a document of it. LARP is a set of contingencies enacted in a particular time and place.

Foucault states that a language (langue) is “a system for possible statements, a finite body of rules that authorizes an infinite number of performances” (27). Unlike a computer game or a table-top game where choices are forced by the spaces on the game board or the software, in a LARP game mechanics and a character are only a set of protocols. The game itself is a discursive irruption and the live, autonomous players can perform an infinite number of copies or instances using the same protocols and rules and, each will be different and distinct, and unable to be replicated. Foucault’s concept of “points of diffraction of discourse” (65) also seems to bear fruit in looking at a LARP, since it deals with simultaneities of enunciation and “points of equivalence.” A LARP’s mechanics attempt to regulate and mitigate such incompatibilities and potential conflicts which exist within this particular “discursive constellation”, which Foucault recognizes is in conversation with other discourses. Analyzing the system that surrounds a LARP and what is in place to allow or disallow such reconstituted representations seems to be fruitful. This could be imagined as a “tree of enunciative formation” and visualized in the shape of one of the networks below. Foucault’s tree is described as more of a true tree network, with leaf nodes. However, I see a LARP as always looping back on itself, thus it may appear more as the Tree of Life vs. a Tree Network:

* *

Foucault’s description of how Doctors are situated as subjects in their institution can describe the position of a player in a LARP. A player is “also defined by the situation that it is possible for him to occupy in relation to the various domains or groups of objects [other player-characters, non-playing characters, props,  the physical space, his own body within the space]: according to a certain grid of explicit or implicit interrogations [his character sheet, character goals, abilities, status], he is the questioning subject [seeking information] and, according to a certain programme of information, he is a listening subject [in conversation with other information-seekers]; according to a table of characteristics [physical and character abilities] he is the seeing subject, and, … the observing subject; … he uses instrumental intermediaries [questions, actions, gestures, objects, character traits and abilities] to modify the scale of the information” (52). A gamer does this to interact with others, learn the exigence of the scene, further his own in-game (and perhaps, out-of-game) goals, and in order to experience pleasure. His boundaries are circumscribed some by the system (the game protocols), the materiality/physicality (his own and the physical space) and the constraints given him by the Game Master (GM) or the exigence of the scene, or the actions of others. This unfolds dynamically, discursively and ultimately narratively between and among the interactions of the other subjects, who occupy this same theoretical and discursive space, and who, collectively or individually, can derail this game by making choices about what is said and done that are possible, but not necessarily probable, given the situation. When an unexpected discursive act occurs, it is no longer the same game, the unity is broken, and a new unity must be co-created, instantaneously.

Who is the discourse between?

First attempt listing the relationship between the actors on the network:

  • Participant to Participant
  • Player Character (PC) to Player Character (PC)
  • Non-Player Character (NPC) to Non-Player Character (NPC)
  • PC to NPC; NPC to PC
  • Player Character to GM; GM to Player Character
  • NPC to Game Master (GM); GM to NPC
  • PC to GM; GM to PC
  • GM to GM (if more than one)
  • GM to Core Game Mechanic
  • NPC to game artifact (character sheet, scenario)
  • PC to game artifact
  • GM to game artifact
  • NPC to “archive”/canon
  • PC to “archive”
  • GM to “archive”
  • Archive to archive
  • NPC to setting, in-game objects
  • PC to setting, in-game objects
  • GM to setting, in-game objects
  • GM to mechanics
  • PC to mechanics
  • NPC to mechanics
  • Scene to scene
  • Scene to Scenario/Module
  • Scenario/Module to Campaign
  • PC to costume; costume to PC
  • NPC to costume; costume to NPC
  • Player to costume, in-game objects
  • Costume to setting, in-game objects

First attempt at visualizing the network:

Network Nodes, Agency, Types of Nodes, Relationship Among Nodes

Various actors in the network, both tangible artifacts and subjects with agency, are nodes.

The GameMaster is a programmer; the archaeologist, the interpreter of the data generated from the nodes/actors; the one who decides what is sanctioned and not; the one who makes the discursive irruptions into “meaning” in the game and connects it to the historical a priori (of the game) and the archive. The Game Master and the Core Game Mechanic (designed by the GM) sits at the network’s Central Node, with the network configured in a radial formation, spreading out from the Central Node

I learned that in computer networking, there are Types of Nodes: Coordinator, End Device, and Router and that networks have three configurations: Star/Radial, Tree, and Mesh.

I see the GM/Storyteller fulfilling the network role of Coordinator, as s/he is integral to initializing the game and game system. In a computer network, the Coordinator Node selects the frequency channel and establishes which protocols the network will use. In a LARP, the GM determines the game genre and core mechanic, and either creates, adapts or adopts a game mechanics system to regulate the game play. A coordinator node starts the network, as a GM opens and closes gameplay. A coordinator node allows other devides to connect to it (e.g. join the network); a GM/Storyteller approves new characters, assigns NPC roles, mitigates and arbitrates in network activity between nodes. A coordinator node also may control message routing on a computer network; the GM/Storyteller controls information flow in the game, keeping certain plot points secret until the appropriate time.

According to Zigbee topologies, “in some circumstances, the network will be able to operate normally if the Co-ordinator fails or is switched off”.  However, if the coordinator provides a routing path through the network, this cannot happen.

LARP gameplay seems to be a hybrid network (or hybrid genre, see Spinuzzi), arranged generally in the Star/Radial formation with the GM and the game’s Core Mechanic at the center, but with routers that connect tree and mesh networks. Nearly all network traffic in a LARP is two-way, either immediately feeding back or eventually looping back to the routers and central node. This makes sense in a game where the object is interactivity.

Types of Nodes: Router

Networks with Tree or Mesh topologies  — or, as I said above, a hybrid network of all of the basic structures — need at least one Router. Routers relay messages from one node to another; translate between protocols; embody decision-making authority for what continues along the network; increase the size of the network by allowing child nodes. A router may fulfill some of the functions of the Coordinator and may create hierarchical information structures as information is passed up and down a tree. Zigbee Topologies notes that “a router cannot sleep.” While a GM may feel like s/he never sleeps, due to the hybrid nature of the LARP network, portions of it may run properly without his/her approval or intervention, but information will eventually loop back to the GM.

I see the Routers on a LARP network as being four main protocols (these are coded by color on the visualization below):

  1. Game Genre: governs costuming, characterization, setting
  2. Game Rules/Mechanics: (governs how game is played; settles conflicts
  3. Game World/Structure: governs what belongs and doesn’t, pacing, plot
  4. Game Players: governs who enters game, interaction, roles

An End Device on a network sends and receives messages, but cannot allow other nodes to connect through them to the network. These are sometimes referred to as Perimeter Nodes or Leaf Nodes, depending on the type of network. While Players may propose scenes or invite others to the game, those decisions are controlled by the routers and coordinator, the key functions of the game or the GM. I am still struggling a bit with labeling certain things as End Devices or Routers. It is my belief at this time that the Game Players are individual routers themselves, especially since this portion of the hybrid network is a Mesh Configuration with traffic between and among this nested network before it is relayed to other sub-networks or the GM as Coordinator.

Second Attempt at Visualizing the Network:

Travel/Traffic, Evolution and Dissolution

LARP game meaning deviates from the original skeletal description given by the GM and in the Core mechanic as it travels through the network. Like a game of telephone where actors have agency and even encouragement to deviate within parameters, what returns to the GM/Coordinator is not what was originally sent out. This is due to nodes in the network, PCs and NPCs enacting their character goals and coming in contact with other nodes, such as game mechanics and objects.

The network DURING game play may shift as nodes are reorganized along sub-networks and alliances as they attempt to solve the Core Mechanic, the game problem that requires dynamic collaboration. An in-game network may pause when a scenario is finished and resume when another session is in play, or it may dissolve when the LARP is finished. If that occurs, it is the responsibility of the GM to make meaning of the network’s in-game activity and integrate it into the archive.


Foucauldian analysis allows me to see how the discourse enacts the game, and to think of the game as a series of relationships rather than rules. It also allows me to think about it as a set of constituent parts that can be regrouped in various ways and make different meaning.

Foucault’s formulation of the enunciative function (p. 91) seems to provide a useful lens for understanding what goes on in a LARP. According to Foucault, the enunciative function seeks to describe the discursive conditions that would allow something to be said (91). It does not analyze the grammatical, propositional, or material conditions under which the statement could be formulated and spoken (including the exigence); rather it seeks to describe the who, why, and how that would enable the “what” that is said. This position is determined relationally, among those currently on the field of discourse. I like to think of the field in terms of game play, and what players are “on the field” at the time. The way those players are working together determines the pace, aggression level, strategy, etc. of the game; they are articulating an enunciative function that is controlling or driving the game play. Thinking of LARP relationally, and of the discourse as being afforded by the particular mix of speakers/players on the field at the moment is a useful analogy, since a single LARP, such as Three Musketeers, can be run multiple times, but each time it will be very different, depending on which players are there, what roles they are assigned, where the game is run, and who the GM is.


Foucault, M. (1982). The archaeology of knowledge ; and the discourse on language. New York: Pantheon Books.
Node Types. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2014, from

You Spin(uzzi) me Round, Round, Baby, right round …

The featured image reflects another way of “monitoring traffic.” Just as Spinuzzi’s research subjects were analysts who monitored, queried, reported, and took action regarding traffic  and various accidents on the Iowa state highways, a router “monitors traffic” on a network. It can be configured to record and report all traffic on the network, as well as what actions were taken by the router.  The router truly is a genre as well as a node, and performs the function of Spinuzzi’s ALAS system but with information packets on the interweb superhighways rather than vehicles on physical roads. In both cases, an analyst interpreter is needed to make meaning of the information denoted and collected.

 New Jersey public employees created user improvisations that led to “BridgeGate”. This “subversive interaction” threw Jersey traffic on the GWB into an irrevocable snare and several of these employees under the bus. How would Spinuzzi map this dynamism between nodes? How would “The Boss” sing about being stuck in the Gov. Chris Christie Fort Lee Traffic Jam? (Hint: “it’s killing the working man”). The scandal and the song remind us that discrete actions taken by individuals in an activity system have positivistic discourse with (and physical effects on) actors beyond the boundaries of the original system. The artists here, speak for the users of the bridge, who had already enacted their own modifications while navigating the traffic problems. Springsteen and Fallon don’t necessarily see themselves as “designer-as-hero” and those caught in the traffic jam and political machinations as “user-as-victim” but they do use the reach of their medium, broadcast television, and the currency of their fame to bring greater attention to the issue. Springsteen is connected to being a “voice of the people” in the Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie tradition, so his music is an expected and encoded genre for protest against organizational and political interests creating problems for the workers.

I’d like to comment on this course objective related to Spinuzzi:
#2: “Understand the value of visualizations for conceptualization processes.”

20-sided die

20-sided die resembling a 3-D representation of Spinuzzi’s Activity System

Spinuzzi is certainly a “visualizer”  with his D&D dice-looking diagram showing movement in various directions (His activity system diagram introduced on p. 37 and continued throughout, pp. 90-91 for example). He also uses many charts and screenshots and figures with different symbols (pp. 141-143) to denote different actions taken and be able to visualize the way that they are “lumping together” around certain frequencies. He has created interesting artifacts that make tangible the actions over time of the study participants and allow for comparisons between employees. I am blown away by the methodology that is developed here: developing a way to encode actions and “see” the activity system, which, as Spinuzzi notes, can be “investigated by triangulating the graphs with field notes, videotapes, and interviews” (140). This will allow for a reconstruction of a moment in time, a kind of detective work that  investigators use to solve crimes by piecing together testimony, surveillance footage, cell phone use, credit card transactions, etc. What Spinuzzi does in this work is not only apply several theoretical lenses to develop his own theory (a feat worthy of publication itself and an explanation for why his work became so quickly renown) but he also articulates a methodology for the kind of synthesis he advocates. He moves it from theory into practice, at both the methodological and methods level. While I use visualizations to help me explain things to myself and to my students, in reading Spinuzzi and looking at how he uses visualization not merely as another or different way to explain what has been articulated in language and can be read in the text, but as an integral and integrated sign system.

Spinuzzi’s work is a hybrid genre itself where “separate historical layers and perspectives meet and interact” (Hasu and Engeström, qtd. in Spinuzzi, p. 161). Spinuzzi is importing his study, a mixed-methods, experiential field study, into the genre of a printed scholarly book, and must “make it fit the logic and connotations of the genre with which it mingles” (p. 161). The visualizations help him to cross from one contextualized and historicized rhetorical situation into another, they help him to capture ephemera that would have been lost, and they help him bridge the theoretical models he is integrating.

Spinuzzi says,

“a design approach based on genre tracing would … be decentralized; would invite workers to be true codesigners rather than clients or informants; would break down official-unofficial distinction by providing workers with the means to develop, promulgate, reflect on, and collectively stabilize their own genres; and would encourage workers to develop stable communities and civic structures along with the genres used to support their activities” (pp. 222-223).

 I am struck by how these words, written a little more than a decade ago, now describe the process of Open Educational Resources or Open Online Publication. Wikipedia is one such collective of volunteers who find meaningful work in codesigning the site, and they have developed a stable genre and self-policing community while staying true to the original open and collaborative vision. It also describes Writing Commons, the free, peer-reviewed, open source composition textbook. What Spinuzzi does not say in his book, though, is that design approaches based on genre tracing are inherently disruptive to the Forms (especially in the Bakhtinian sense of being “congealed”) and systems already in place, ones that many powerful entities are heavily invested in maintaining. Hierarchical structures and presumed superiority over “worker bees” is an inherent part of the business structure in the United States, and even American society in general, as it is so based on capitalist, consumerist principles. Decentralized open-access,  open-content, open-designed systems are hard to turn into profitable business models, and they threaten those monetized models with their actual existence and their ideological underpinnings. A Corporate model is, by its nature, Structuralist and Formalist, rationalist, determinist, and centrally controlled (p. 7) with just enough agency for branch offices or workers to provide the illusion of autonomy. The US Business Consulting model is based on the idea of “designer/consultant-as-hero” and “worker/user-as victim.”  The business model IS one of efficiency, replication, and standardization, so analysis of productivity or design will always have to locate a “crux” or a “problem” — something to be able to implement that will “fix” or “optimize” the identified issue. If a consultant does not identify such a problem to be fixed, then s/he isn’t worth the cost of bringing them in. Furthermore, Spinuzzi challenges the outsider position of a designer vs. a user, reasoning that users’ will bring valuable co-creative methods and information to a collaborative model. Again, the business model values the outsider position, which calls for a consultant or designer. They “see with fresh eyes”, they are not “wearing the blinders” of the worker, who is seen as a “doer” not a thinker. A consultant/outside designer *must* be seen in the position of expert, or else they are not worth the money spent on them. Their value lies in this rhetorical positioning. Spinuzzi can point that out, but outside-intervention is a core business value not likely to change any time soon. I’d like to see Spinuzzi’s theories applied by someone who knows and understands the business culture. Perhaps Genre Tracing becomes the methodology of the new 21st century post-Spinuzzi consultant, who uses it to provide value to the organization in terms of seeing how users’ produce the work of the organization. I can see it being particularly valuable with governmental organizations, who are interested in how their public interacts with their official documents and genres, at least they are if they are trying to create public engagement with the civil discourse and political process.

Radar O'Reilly pic

Radar O’Reilly, as played by Gary Burghoff, attempting to understand how his paper pushing is a scholarly object of study.

That said, I leave with Radar O’Reilly and his astonished face. Every time Spinuzzi said Ottumwa, I couldn’t help but envision Radar. Grab a Grape Nehi and think about how genres, such as those omnipresent military forms always on Radar’s clipboard for Col. Blake or Col. Potter to sign is the courier and currency of the organization itself, embodying “traditions of producing, using, and interpreting artifacts” that “represent the development and stabilization of worldviews” (p. 41). Surely Radar’s forms would offer an interesting trace of the US involvement in Korea, demonstrating the “values, ethics, and other humanistic concerns” of that specific rhetorical situation (p. 41).


Works Cited

Fallon, J. (2014, January 14). Bruce Springsteen & Jimmy Fallon: “Gov. Christie Traffic Jam” (“Born To Run” Parody) – YouTube. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Retrieved from

Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: a sociocultural approach to information design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Feature Image from:

Die image from:

Radar O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff) image from:

Mind Map Week 4: Adding Genre Theory

If my Popplett below doesn’t show up as a functioning Flash object, please click on these words or the image to visit the Popplett.
This week I just added a node of key terms from the How Stuff Works readings related to Genre Theory. As I was reading Bazerman, Popham, and Miller, I kept coming back to the concept of the Router and the packets of information that travel along the network. I kept thinking of the genre as functioning as the router — sitting BETWEEN  two nodes OR between two networks. Routers have this function of regulating and translating. Routers that sit between networks “speak”  the protocols (rules) of the networks that connect to it, even if the protocols for a particular network are discrete. That made me think of the distinction Miller makes between the two types of rules — constitutive and regulative — each governing a discourse community or member of the rhetorical transaction. Routers would translate and mediate between those two sets of rules, making them parallel and “talk” to each other. Without the Router — you’ve got miscommunication, malfunction, a Tower of Babel.

I also started thinking then of routers as genres as boundary objects. Genres sitting at the edges, like Popham says, of two different networks or nodes. A router is clearly a boundary object; it is in the liminal space between, it is the knitter of the interstitial spaces. It is what allows discourse.

I think thought of genres as allowing discourse, as controlling and regulating it, discourse as not existing — or functioning — without them. Genres then, are sites of dynamism, not distinct entities that circumscribe into a unity. Genres are embodiments of discourse, housing the activity that creates it. A genre then functions not a  container to “house” but as a sieve to flow through. I’ll have to try to draw that. Popplett is not the proper tool.

I spent some time, Spinuzzi-style, trying to make Popplet do what I, as the user, wanted it to do. I am going to try to make nested Popplets next week, in an attempt to show networks within networks and more complex systems than 2-D linear ones.


Digital Writing Assessment – Comments on Others’ Posts

I read Jenny Stephens Moore’s post  on Reilly and Atkins’ chapter, “Rewarding Risk: Designing Aspirational Assessment Processes for Digital Writing Projects”and Daniel Hocutt’s post on Crow’s chapter, “Managing datacloud decisions and “big data”: Understanding privacy choices in terms of surveillant assemblages”.

I commented on Jenny’s post that I thought the Atkins and Reilly article complements the article I read by VanKooten (see my post about it here), because both are talking about the assessments being tied to rhetorical theory (not just pedagogical principles). Of course we must assess what is taught, and we must have specific and practical and desirable learning outcomes, but these outcomes must also be tied to theoretical principles that are applied through the work that is assessed (I think theory is often lost in the race to make something “useful” and what is applied may be more technical knowledge or lower order thinking, rather than the higher-order synthesis and evaluation skills that would be addressed by paying attention to the theory behind the methods.

Atkins and Reilly’s assert that the “language of assessments of digital writing projects should be generalizable, generative, aspirational”, which is defined as encouraging students to use new tools and learn new skills. Moore notes that teachers should also “solicit student involvement in assessment creation, which Reilly and Atkins claim will localize and contextualize the assessment.” VanKooten also discussed co-creating the rubric with her students, which builds agency and investment in the project, but also requires them to think about the component parts (which would include applied theory) that must go into the assessment. I’m a firm believer in the “localize and contextualize” the assessment to the particular work in that particular class, which isn’t the same from semester to semester even if you are teaching the same class and giving generally the same assignment. I also liked Atkins and Reilly’s discussion about risk-taking and the aspirational component of assessment. We want to encourage our students to take risks — LEARNING involves risks. If you don’t feel uncomfortable, then you aren’t learning, you’re just doing. Adding a component to the rubric that encourages students to take risks by rewarding them tangibly with points. It also assures that students will have less of a tendency to fall back on “pat” responses to the assignment and should also discourage plagiarism.

Crow’s article brings up the “dark side” of the cloud, much as White’s afterword brings up the “dark side” of technology hyper-mediating our experience. Crow uses Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of assemblage to theorize that e-portfolios funcation as a convergence of once discrete surveillance systems, a “surveillant assemblage.” A classroom is one such discrete surveillance system, but when you create a portfolio of artifacts from multiple classrooms, you create such a convergence — performance across the boundaries of the individual performances for individual teachers who formerly surveyed their own students but now have access to products beyond the borders of their classrooms and students who were not “their own.” The performance revealed in the portfolio is something new in and of itself — it is more than the sum of the discrete performances in particular classes. Furthermore, the audience is extended, especially depending on who has access to the e-portfolio. And this, according to Crow, has implications for privacy that we should consider.

I have often thought about this “surveillant assemblage” (but without using that vocabulary term) when it comes to SafeAssign, the anti-plagiarism tracking tool in use at many high schools, colleges and universities (or another program of the same ilk, such as TurnItIn). Students don’t REALLY have a choice about putting their work into the database. Sure, they have the disclaimer in front of them that says they voluntarily agree to add their information to this network, but they cannot turn the assignment in to the teacher without agreeing to the terms. The vastness of the information contained in the SafeAssign database — including personal identifying information, reflections, etc. — is amazing to think about. It is in the hands of a multi-billion dollar corporation (BlackBoard, which is owned by an investment group. What do they do with the data? What *could* they do?

I am careful to have students put their personal narratives, profiles of partners, and their professional writing that includes their names, addresses, and resumes into BlackBoard but *not* SafeAssign for this very reason. Their papers are still on the VCCS BlackBoard server, and potentially viewable by others besides me, but that is not the same as being added to large, multi-school database. My institution requires me to use SafeAssign for certain assignments — either as a justification for paying for it or an attempt to monitor plagiarism (which sometimes subsumes the purpose of writing and making it about “catching” wrongdoing).

I think I would very much like to read other articles in this book. It is timely and fresh, with some new and exciting theorizes. And I got used to reading on screen, rather than printing, which I am trying to train myself to do. It’s a process.

Works Cited

Brown, Maury. “Toward a Rhetorically Sensitive Assessment Model for New Media Composition” – Crystal Van Kooten Annotated Bibliography Entry”. Blog Post. 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2014.

Crow, Angela. “Managing Datacloud Decisions and ‘Big Data’: Understanding Privacy Choices in Terms of Surveillant Assemblages.” Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation. Ed. Heidi A McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2013. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.

Gardner, Traci. “Digital Rhetoric: Wordle of Top 50 most frequently used words from the DRC Blog Carnival focused on defining Digital Rhetoric.”  20 June 2012. Web. 7 Feb. 2014.

Hocutt, Daniel. “Annotated Bibliography Entry: Crow in DWAE.” Blog Entry. 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2014

Moore, Jenny Stephens. “Annotated Bibliography: Reilly and Atkins.” Blog Entry. 3 Feb. 2014. Web. 7 Feb. 2014.

Reilly, Colleen A., and Anthony T. Atkins. “Rewarding Risk: Designing Aspirational Assessment Processes for Digital Writing Projects.” Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation. Ed. Heidi A McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. CC Digital Press, 2013. Web. 2 Feb. 2014.

VanKooten, Crystal. “Toward a Rhetorically Sensitive Assessment Model for New Media Composition.” Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation. Ed. Heidi A McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2013. Web. 3 Feb. 2014.

White, Edward M. “Afterword: Not Just a Better Pencil  (McKee and DeVoss, Eds.) – Afterword.” Digital Writing Assessment and Evaluation. Ed. Heidi A McKee and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss. CC Digital Press, 2013. Web. 3 Feb. 2014.


Thank God for Popham! (Not James, but Susan!)

I’ll admit, when I first saw the last name Popham, I did this:



James Popham, guru of assessment, was assigned reading when I was a K-12 educator, and used to usher in the era of accountability and a focus on “instruments” rather than students.

Then I read Susan Popham’s lucid, straightforward prose, and was instead feeling this:

Happy Cat

Ironically, perhaps, this image comes from a web site devoted to cleansing the body. I do feel cleansed of Foucault after Popham.

Before I get to Popham and her coherence and cohesion, I’d like to focus some on Carolyn Miller’s piece. You should see my marginalia! As a former communications executive who developed and used many professional writing genres (and templates … a discussion of this term and its relationship to genre seems to be in order), the idea of a genre as having a social purpose resonated well. She believes that a genre is characterized by its usefulness in communicating from one group (or organization) to another by means of expected and accepted forms and formats. As Miller notes, a genre has a purpose, an exigence, a reason for its existence and its use in a particular situation; it is not merely a summation of particularities, or a form one can notice. This goes beyond what many (Frye, Black, Campbell and Jamieson) who postulate a kind of internal rhetorical unity that denotes a genre (C&J) or a kind of one-way “transaction” (Black) that communicates to an audience via a set of strategies, diction, or linguistic elements (153). This is the more “literary” definition of a genre, one which many are more used to. A literary genre can ostensibly exist without an actionable purpose, although I would argue that a writer calls upon a genre for one or more exigences: to express, to woo, to join a tradition, to imitate, to enjoy a challenge, to play with language, etc. I doubt that anyone is ever truly without an exigency, but this is different from what Miller means by “social action”, whereby the listener/reader is called upon to do something, and the genre exists as a way of bringing together not only a linguistic form, but a group of people who will interact (discourse) around it.

I was also piqued by this quote: “Thus, inaugurals, eulogies, courtroom speeches, and the like have conventional forms because they arise in situations with similar structures and elements and because rhetors respond in similar ways, having learned from precedent what is appropriate and what effects their actions are likely to have on other people” (152).  This is part of Foucault’s historical a priori and also Vatz’s notion of what speech has come before as impacting the rhetor’s choices in responding to a situation. I submitted then when reading, and reiterated later in the essay, that analysis of discourse then becomes about deviance from the expected genres. This deviance (or aberration to use a network term … more later) may be interpreted as innovative (a sanctioned deviation from expected discourse, a lauded tweaking or hybridization of the genre) or as abject (beyond what is considered right or proper in terms of the use of the genre).

I was quite intrigued by her discussion of Walter Fisher’s theories, which I spent some time looking out outside of the article, as I felt it would enrich my understanding. Fisher’s narrative paradigm seems particularly fruitful for further discussion, as he replaces argument with stories as the defining element of rhetoric, positing that rhetors choose among stories and narrative archetypes that match their values and beliefs. Stories, not logic, underpin people’s decisions, and  reasons presented in rhetoric are subjective and may be misunderstood by audiences who do not share these same beliefs/hold these same stories. In an age of “truthiness“, where peopel have their own sets of facts and it’s more important what you feel or believe, and in an age where you can filter your discourse to only hear or be exposed to stories that confirm your world view, Fisher’s theories seem to have even more application than they did in 1984.

I was also struck by the difference between Burke’s motive and Bitzer’s exigence that Miller outlined: “Burke’s emphasis is on human acction, whereas Bitzer’s appears to be on reaction” (155). This struck me as the same difference as teaching and learning, with Burkean thought focusing on what the teacher does and says, what is instructed or imparted or transmitted, while Bitzer’s notions are more focused on what is received or heard or learned. As Miller rightly notes, these are two different actions and interactions with a discourse or a genre, and they do not align always, even if both parties have the same general need or purpose. This idea was further reinforced later in the article when Miller brings up Sharon Downey’s discussion of two sets of rules: “constitutive rules that tell us how to fuse form and substance to make meaning and regulative rules that tell us how the fusion itself is to be interpreted within its context” (161). Thus, one set of ruels governs what is said and how, while another set of rules governs what is heard, interpreted and what it means. The potential for “disjunctive discourse” happens when these two sets of rules are not aligned. While this term is usually used linguistically to refer to syntactical issues that create semantic difficulties, I believe it can have a social meaning when two sets of operating rules — both valid — collide and the discourse breaks down in the absence of a mediator or translator that can bridge this divide (more network terms … more later).  This whole notion applies to education because there, accountability has focused on the constitutive rules — what the teachers convey — but then measured the received messages without using teh regulative rules which govern what is interpreted. The problem lies with using the constitutive rules governing the rhetorical action as the basis for assessment vs the regulative rules that govern what is and can be heard or interpreted within context. The entire premise is incorrect, because rhetorical analysis (and what is teaching if not discourse) would state that what is said is not always what is heard, the action does not always create the intended reaction. Accountability focus on the students — why they didn’t hear or interpret or react in the intended way — would make sense.

I also wondered if Pearce and Conklin’s five levels of rule-governed relationships might make a useful model for theorizing larp: archetypes, episodes, speech acts, propositions (grammatical utterances — Foucault’s statements?), and stream of behavior that is interpreted … “based on the common physiology that human beings share and in the common physical properties of the world they live in” (Pearce & Conklin 78 qtd. in Miller 161). I would add the world they inhabit, as in the world of the game.

Works Cited

Colbert, Stephen. “The Word: Truthiness” The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. 7 October 2005. Web. 3 Feb. 2014.
“Happy Cat”. Image from: Web. 3 Feb. 2014.
Miller, Carolyn R. “Genre as Social Action.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 70.2 (1984): 151–167. Print.
Munsch, Edvard. “The Scream”. from Web. 3 Feb. 2014.
Popham, S. L. “Forms as Boundary Genres in Medicine, Science, and Business.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 19.3 (2005): 279–303. CrossRef. Web. 1 Feb. 2014.