In the forward to Feminist Cyberscapes: Mapping Gendered Academic Spaces (edited by Kristine Blair and Pamela-Takayoshi), Patricia Sullivan writes, “I am particularly grateful that Feminist Cyberscapes …does not abandon the study of more bedrock technologies (say, e-mail) in favor of emerging technologies (say, synchronous video conferencing). Such a restraint in a society of technology hope shows the discipline necessary to build important issues” (xii). In this passage, Sullivan questions the practice of those who move to emerging technologies from those “technologies that form the unexplained strata of habit, the structure for cyberinteraction, and perhaps the way the computer is/was/has been entering our collective mind” (xii). Is there more or less interaction, on a communication level, with email versus video, which is a also an oral and visual form of communication? I suppose it depends on what you privledge. Ultimately, Sullivan is concerned that “focusing on processes and habits sidesteps examination of the technology hope each new technology brings us. We optimistically greet these disruptions as opportunities to remake the culture into the more egalitarian state we seek. But embracing this cycle traps our theorizing into patterns that center certain technology issues, while it decenters other more political, economic, and cultural ones” (xiii). That is, Sulivan’s biggest concern is that if we pay attention to emerging technologies, then we run the risk of under theorizing traditional technologies. While I understand and appreciate what Sullivant says, I am also concerned about practices in some programs that allow technology and writing or technology and communication to be completely untheorized or unremarked upon in any meaningful way. Will beginning with email, such as email listservs, be the way into the conversation, or will it take something like adding video and audio to composition classes before discussions are started in departments and programs that consider electronic communication a non-issue?
There was an op-ed in the Chronicle recently about students and IM. Students said email was so last year and that they hardly ever answer email. I’ll have to look that article up. I know I made a copy of it. If students have moved on to other forms of electronic communication, do we begin where they are, or do we drag them over to where we are — wherever that is, whether that is in email or in video? I could be wrong, but I suspect that students are moving to using email as a storage or transfer tool than using it to communicate and network with other students. I think they use IM, SMS, and cell phones much more. I could be wrong. I’ll have to do more research to find out.
I guess if I want my first chapter of my thesis to be about the “what” of digital literacies, I guess it might help to think about from whose perspective.