Made to Broken/Broken to be MAde

Cyberspace as Place

The term "Cyberspace" no longer seems as relevant as it once did. The implications of the term—an endless digital void, of sorts—have been rearranged and organized. The Internet, as a space, has evolved from a limited number of small sites for people and companies to a vast interactive landscape, with virtual maps and roads directing traffic through major and minor hubs. Instead of crawling through any given search engine, we dwell in the metropolis of Google. Rather than chatting with strangers in a random IRC group, we connect with friends and family through social networking.

Navigating through hubs is the point where our students actually are truly digital natives. While I argued previously that students are not, in fact, as savvy as we believe when it comes to technology, they are expert navigators through these major Internet intersections. As such, they are situated to analyze digital rhetorics anchored by the Internet as place—a notion instructors may capitalize upon in order not only to embrace their online homestead (with all its traditions and rites) but to direct their awareness and lead such awareness to new levels of social and critical engagement. These online homesteads carry a level of relevance and importance worth exploring, and students are dwelling within these communities. Reynolds (2004) argues "…the ways in which we imagine space and place have a direct impact on how we imagine writing and acts of writing" (p. 27). For students, living their lives virtually, the kinds of spaces their writing occupies are positioned quite differently than in a composition classroom. Their writing is not found on legal pads or even just word processors: their writing, both as an act and as a product, is digital and therefore occupies a digital space. Digital spaces—Twitter, Facebook, E-mail, personal blogs—are received and perceived differently than physical spaces.

But not to our students.

Reynolds further argues that "[cyberspace] is an imagined geography where visitors of homesteaders can be simultaneously stimulated and terrified, where order and disorder co-exist, and where the frontier metaphor continues its hold over our collective imagination" (p. 34). Writing almost a decade ago, this "imagined geography," plagued by a frontier mentality has been conquered, domesticated, and reinvented. Damian Baca (2012), writing on learning communities in New Mexico, may, in fact, offer a better way of imagining the new territories of cyberspace.

Students immersed in the digital age navigate the well-worn geographies of online communities; for them, they are every bit as real as their homes, the colleges, and the cities and towns they've grown up in. It stands to reason that just like their homes and their physical communities, online terrain contains the same kind of meaning for students. But for online communities, students get to participate in making meaning. Baca's work on resolana, then, may explain the means by which students create and develop meaning online by melding their experience, their ideas, and digital environments to become "a process and place for all participants to discover new knowledge, gain understanding, and learn from their collective experiences" (p. 81).  Defining resolana as "a pathway to knowledge that derives from a dialectical relation between thought and action in the every day lives of rural Indohispana/o people," Baca's localized definition has serious ramifications for students involved in online communities (p. 82) . Baca's work doesn't discuss or dissect "knowledge" in any sort of standardized manner; the work of resolana is far more about the knowledge applicable to the individual student's life, goals, or joy. For some, this is problematic.

For a multimodal approach to composition focusing on code as means to express personal investments in socially engaging issues, knowledge derived from resolana should be cultivated, directed, and encouraged. Baca, seemingly prophetic, closes his article by writing that "[rethinking] literacy and knowledge production through resolana may invite a larger dialogue and questioning of a plurality of economic possibilities rather than a unilateral, overarching one" (p. 87).  Curating digital environments for students opens the classroom to an infinite potential; rather than the worn path of safety, changing direction to the digital and code, the language of the digital, offers the means to realize that potential in our students. As Ballantine (2014) notes, regarding new web platforms for engagement, "Web 2.0 is the realization that we are no longer passive roamers of the Web, refining our search parameters and clicking links with a hope its path yields our desired result." In this new, more developed arena of the web, the stakes have never been higher—as high as the interest held by literacy stakeholders. Our students know the well-worn paths of the web before entering our classrooms. The question, then, is how will we actively contribute to their understanding of the web and what they can do with it?

In the classroom...