So what is the value of DALN narratives for teachers of rhetoric and composition?

One way of considering this question is to think of the literacy narratives of Megan Ahern, Kelly Smith, and the anonymous CSCC student as rhetorical performances, each of them interested, situated, and motivated; each of them richly textured individual messages about literacy meant to be watched and listened to, to be heard by the multiple others who browse and access literacy narratives within the DALN.

One could argue, in fact, that these narratives, like so much of people’s communication in social media contexts, are characterized by what Thomas Workman (2008) describes as “anticipated reciprocity” (p. 5): the expectation that someone is out there listening to one's messages, reading them, and composing meaning from them.

Within this context, it is astonishing that these three young women commit themselves to such risky texts, texts that expose their makers, in Goffman’s (2003) terms, to losing “face” by opening themselves up to others and to the very real possibility that those who listen to or watch their narratives will think they are uninformed, that they lack skill in written literacy, or that their narratives are simply foolish. Contributors to the DALN voluntarily establish their own vulnerability in the always and already risky behavior of opening a line of communication, not knowing who is “out there,” who may disagree, who may misinterpret, who may read or watch or listen.



There seems indeed to be some sense in which narrative, rather than referring to “reality,” may in fact create or constitute it…

(Bruner, 1991, p. 13)


Anticipated Reciprocity: Individuals who participate in online communities believe that they will receive reciprocity for their efforts. Someone will write back. A posting will be followed by comments. By the very nature of the technology, response and reciprocal disclosure are part and parcel to the experience.

(Workman, 2008, p. 8)


Rather than seeing narratives as intrinsically oriented toward coherence and authenticity, and inconsistencies as an analytic nuisance, the latter are exactly what is most interesting. They offer a way into examining how storytellers are bringing of and managing their social identities in context.

(Bamberg, 1997, p. 222)