Edited by Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, Heidi A. McKee, and Richard (Dickie) Selfe
Introduction to Section IV
Dànielle Nicole DeVoss
There are two ways we want to frame this final section of Technological Ecologies and Sustainability. The first way relates to sustaining scholarship—that is, fostering, supporting, and moving forward conversations, research agendas, scholarly trajectories, and more. Doing so productively requires navigating a complex set of considerations.
Perhaps more than any other digital humanities scholar, Dickie Selfe has provided us with ample and nimble recommendations for establishing and sustaining cultures of support.
In chapter 2 of his 2005 Sustainable Computer Environments: Cultures of Support in English Studies and Language Arts, Dickie offers a robust set of steps that technoleaders can take in doing so:
Step 1, he suggests, is to recognize the support required to integrate technology in meaningful ways in English Studies and language arts. He identifies some of the barriers to such meaningful integration, including lack of time; lack of technical support; lack of systematic, relevant training; lack of convenient access to technology; and the prohibition of folks from participating in meaningful ways in shaping technology decision-making.
Step 2 is to involve English and language arts teachers in creating a culture of support. Activities that foster involvement include constructing and sharing technology-rich teaching activities, units, and assignments; meeting together and collaboratively crafting goals for technology integration; and engaging in authentic, regular acts of technology initiative assessment.
Dickie’s third suggested step is to identify primary stakeholders. His list of key stakeholders in technology initiatives includes teacher-leaders; teacher-users; technical staff; students and student workers; and administrators.
Linked to developing and sustaining technology-rich initiatives is supporting and sustaining research trajectories within technological ecologies. In rhetoric and composition, we have more than 20 years’ worth of guidance, leadership, and scholarship to draw from in computers and writing.
There are conversations to continue, and conversations to expand. And there are certainly plenty of questions to remain unanswered. Sustaining research in the digital humanities requires that we draw upon past work and resituate ourselves in the face of evolving and new technologies, and the impact they have on literacy and on writing.
And, finally, the largest and perhaps most pressing issue related to sustaining our work relates to sustaining the actual, physical environment in which we work.
Rhetoric and composition has a long history of work in environmental rhetorics, including books like Technical Communication, Deliberative Rhetoric, and Environmental Discourse, edited by Nancy Coppola and Bill Karis; and Environmental Rhetoric in Contemporary America, by Carl Herndl and Stuart Brown; and by the work of scholars like Craig Waddell, Marilyn Cooper, and Sid Dobrin.
And, certainly, many of us are active in environmental efforts in our lives outside the academy, serving on environmental impact review boards, leading recycling initiatives at our institutions, and consulting with our campus sustainability offices, for instance.
As a field, however, we have not established a large-scale environmental sustainability initiative. Nor have we looked critically at our own technoecological footprints.
Identifying our ecological footprints within our specific technological ecologies is key to understanding the ways in which technologies leave trails, and where tools go to die, or, ideally, to be reborn.
In this section, “Sustaining Scholarship and the Environment,” Lisa Lebduska first situates our work within the commons, which, as a shared space of resources, has measurable limits. Lisa distinguishes between development and growth, and layers in Lessig’s notion of innovation commons. Doing so allows her to chart the limit-related tensions that require our attention as we sustain technological ecologies.
In “Old World Successes and New World Challenges: Reducing the Computer Waste Stream in America,” Shawn Apostel and Kristi Apostel trace for us the paths of technologies into our lives, through our institutions, and, often, across the globe. Shawn and Kristi offer models from within the United States and in the European Union, and point toward best practices in environmental stewardship.
And, finally, Cindy Selfe, Gail Hawisher, and Patrick Berry—in “Balancing Tradition and Change: Sustaining Scholarly Efforts”—reflect upon their experiences as leaders in the field, and provide direction for us, warning us that we are the shepherds of digital humanities work, and sustaining this work is crucial for maintaining our relevance in our institutions and in the world. Cindy, Gail, and Patrick describe “a productive middle ground between the historically informed values of the humanities and the changes currently informing emerging information ecologies in digital environments.”
This final section thus illustrates our need to look beyond our current institutional and ecological contexts—to envision ways to foster and sustain our work and our environment.
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