Technological Ecologies and Sustainability
Edited by Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, Heidi A. McKee, and Richard (Dickie) Selfe

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Introduction to Section III
“Sustaining Writing Centers, Research Centers, and Community Programs”

Dickie Selfe

Innovative teams of colleagues in English studies have frequently spun off a number of important, diverse, and widely accepted programs in higher education. In section three, Sustaining Research Centers, Writing Centers, Online Systems, and Community Programs, we recognize their powerful influence on literacy education. Interestingly these centers, institutes, and projects often reside on the borders and outside of traditional departments. Which makes it all the more important to pay careful attention to how the technological ecologies—that are always embedded within such projects—influence, enhance or endanger the important work going on there.

Jim Porter has spent several years collaborating on the development of the Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center at Michigan State University. In his chapter, Porter addresses how colleagues and other teams (not individuals) might sustain such a rare entity in humanistic disciplines, particularly when the research of the center focuses on projects that have two very contested characteristics (within the Humanities): projects are both interdisciplinary (often working with partners outside English studies and the Humanities) and they are digital in nature.

Jeanne Smith and Jay Sloan argue for the importance of sustaining the hard won sense of community in Writing Centers while recognizing that technological ecologies play an increasingly important role in their operations. They take one of the fundamental components of writing center pedagogy—interpersonal communities of readers and writers—and make it the corner stone for techno-ecological development. The authors are interested in integrating technologies into their workflow only if they do not disrupt the often rare interpersonal, face-to-face learning relationships commonly found in writing centers.

Mike Palmquist, Kate Kiefer, and Jill Salahub from Colorado State offer us a theory of analysis that has helped sustain their extensive and widely used online writing environment: the Writing@CSU project. Their goal, largely realized, is to provide colleagues from around the nation and internationally, extensive open access to content, teaching and learning resources, and a growing number of interactive communication forums. Activity Theory helps them plan and understand the constant re-construction necessary in such a large online system. We find their sense of sustainability compelling, as it “implies both continuity and enhancement, building and adapting.”

Providing another provocative methodology for addressing sustainability, Lisa Dush authored “Genre-Informed Implementation Analysis: An Approach for Assessing the Sustainability of New Textual Practices.” She uses genre theory to examine a community organization’s attempt to implement a digital storytelling program. She details a number of ways the multi-year effort to implement digital storytelling ultimately failed. Dush provides a number of specific analytics, including a genre inventory tool and a protocol for documenting the textual, discursive, social, and material impacts of technology-rich pilot project activity.

ISBN: 978-0-87421-749-0

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