Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ecology of Composition

The Syverson book was a nice way to end this course. I felt it really tied in for me many of the books and concepts we had discussed during the semester from thought collectives to complex systems. I thought the most interesting aspect of this book was how well it tied in the process of applying the ecological system to composition research and pedagogy. The three case studies in the book were very diverse but effective for me in understanding the four attributes (distribution, embodiment, emergence, enaction) behind the ecological system of writers, readers and texts.

The example of Reznikoff’s poetry helped me understand how much the text cannot be separated from the environment, the writer or the audience because of how much his poetry was influenced by the people he interacted with, his family members, the notes that helped craft his poetry, and the environment in which he and his family lived in. It made me start to think of my own writing experiences over the years and how much they were embedded within so many other factors. It really changed my mind how on how composition forms and the writing process.

Another part of this book I enjoyed was the focus on learning. One aspect that I found hopeful and inspiring was on page 125 when Syverson states how much the learning environment needs more flexibility for students, “…our composing environments should be engineered so that it is safe for students to attempt different approaches – even to “crash and burn” and “crash and burn” again until they are competent, confident pilots of their own texts.” In my previous experiences as a child in the classroom, there was a lot of pressure in the classroom to get writing “right” from the first draft and this produced a lot of anxiety, stress and lack of creativity for me at times. I agree with Syverson that if there were more opportunities for the classroom environment to be engineered for more flexibility and constructed to encourage a climate of challenge, the classroom could be a much better place for the student.

Syverson states on page 198, “Classrooms are ecological systems of students, teachers, resources, and physical environments in continuous interaction.” I think this aspect is often ignored and the classroom is viewed more as a system that is controlled by or monitored by the teacher while the rest of the environment and the students follow the teacher’s lead. But Syverson’s approach in this book emphasizes how much these aspects are treated as one and how they emerge together versus separate at different points in time.

The overall book made me wonder about the concept of writers, readers and texts from a journalism perspective and taking it into ecological realm. Particularly in the aspect of how citizens and readers were involved in the news reporting process through the most recent catastrophic events of Hurricane Katrina and the London Bombings in which citizens were giving reports of what they witnessed through cell phone images, blog posts and raw reports on news sites. As these two stories developed, the combination of the journalist, the reader and the audience helped to tell the story more effectively than if it was just the journalist getting the information and the reader taking the information in. It has made me think how much the pedagogy practices in journalism schools could consider this ecological perspective for the classroom for some of the basic reporting and editing classes.


Blogger jmj said...


I think there might be some grounds for the acceptance of ecologies of writing in journalism. It seems like the field is already very accepting of collaborative writing situations, where multiple authors and suppliers of information are listed as contributing to some stories. Additionally, don't some magazines/papers (especially in Europe) leave their articles unsigned? That fact would point to a significantly different recognition of the place of the author than is granted in most other writing situations.

10:01 PM  
Blogger asw said...

You bring up an interesting point. I think as blogs and more citizen journalism efforts make their way into the newsroom, we may see more collaborative writing situations.

Your point about unsigned articles is interesting too, The Economist does this and I was thinking how much this aspect does communicate the place of authorship and the focus becomes less on the journalist and more on the story. Personally, I find this to be a good practice for journalism, but I don't think it will ever be broadly implemented in the field.:(

6:47 AM  

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