Trajectories of Persons and Practices: Sociohistoric Perspectives of Disciplinary Development. The Case Study of Charles Scott, Jr

Chapter 1 | Re-Mapping Disciplinary Writing, Learning, and Enculturation

A More Heterogeneously Situated and Complexly Mediated Understanding of Disciplinary Development

Drawing upon sociohistoric theory, a theoretical framework that pays close attention to the historical trajectories human action traces through the world and the profound heterogeneity produced by those histories as elements from other times and places flow into and emanate from situated sites of engagement, we offer in this book a series of analyses that trace the concrete histories of disciplinary persons and practices as they develop across the expansive literate landscapes they inhabit.

Ultimately, the case studies we provide offer telling portraits of the richness of learners’ literate lives and the complexity of how they navigate disciplinary writing, learning, and enculturation.

These analyses are based on longitudinal case studies of undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals writing for disciplinary worlds and a wide range of other literate activities. The analyses also draw on a wealth of digital data (e.g., sample texts and artifacts in a wide range of media, still images, audio and video recordings of text-based interviews, observations, and video recordings of persons participating in literate activities). They vividly illuminate the dynamic interplay of multiple literacies that come into play in disciplinary writing:

These case studies expand our understanding of how disciplinary persons and practices come to be in the world.

First, they extend our knowledge of the richly literate lifeworlds learners inhabit, both the disciplinary worlds they navigate and their other literate engagements. We examine engagements with a wide variety of named disciplines (creative writing, civil engineering, graphic design, journalism, nursing, English studies, rhetoric and composition) as well as of everyday activities, including writing fan fiction and creating fan art, video gaming, solving logic puzzles, scheduling daily activities, participating in religious worship, writing poetry and science fiction, and creating multimedia videos. By reaching back to near and distant pasts and forward toward learners' potential futures, these case studies also offer glimpses of learners’ literate lives throughout the lifespan. In addition, these case studies address a wider range of representational media that persons act with, both in terms of simultaneous deployment and across histories of repurposing.

Second, these case studies further our knowledge of how fully disciplinary activities and other literate engagements come to interanimate one another. The case studies not only make visible the way other literate activities shape disciplinary engagements, but also the way disciplinary engagements shape other activities. Often over a span of many years, these case studies represent the two-way interplay of those linkages. In other words, these case studies make visible both elements from individuals' literate lifeworlds being recruited into their disciplinary activities as well as elements of the disciplinary engagements being woven into their everyday activities. In these ways, the analyses we offer more fully address how disciplinary persons and practices come to be in the world.

Based on these analyses, we contend that disciplinary writing, learning, and socialization is not situated in a particular disciplinary territory; rather, it involves historically developing persons as they orient themselves across an expansive and ever-expanding literate landscape. Whereas Dias, Freedman, Medway, and Pare (1999) argued that, “We write where we are” (p. 223), we argue that disciplinary learners write who they are, that where they’ve been, where they are, and where they see themselves going are all critical threads of that story.

Taken together, the analyses in this book argue for a more dispersed, heterogeneously situated, and complexly mediated understanding of disciplinary writing, learning, and enculturation. They present a picture where all the environments and activities people engage in across the time and spaces of their lives are relevant to what we culturally name disciplines. These analyses display very specific linkages across settings, activities, and time that fundamentally challenge the dominant metaphor of disciplinary development. We don’t become who we are, write how we write, represent how we represent, by cutting ourselves off from all other domains of our lives and living evermore purely in some disciplinary center. We become who we are and engage in disciplinary activity by tying together and connecting all the resources we have developed in ever surer and richer ways. If the rhetoric of modern disciplinarity has called on us to downplay those connections, the practices of modern disciplinarity have called on us to connect more intensely and precisely.

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