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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2005

E 388M • Minds, Texts and Technology

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33645 TH
5:00 PM-8:00 PM
FAC 10

Course Description

What do readers, writers, and texts have in common with the human immune system, the economics of the stock market, the rise and fall of a pre-Columbian city-state, or a ship's navigation crew? Recent interdisciplinary research in complex systems and cognitive science suggests some intriguing possibilities. This seminar will explore some of the theories emerging from this research and their potential for informing studies of language, rhetoric, and composition.

The course introduces concepts in situated and distributed cognition, activity theory, distributed cognition, and complexity theory to establish a theoretical framework for analyzing writing situations, as a way of testing the applicability of these theories for rhetoric and composition. One goal of this seminar is to help students define and develop working bibliographies, which are somewhat different from annotated or "works cited" type bibliographies. For this purpose, students will write regular 1-2 page responses to the assigned readings. They will prepare a short presentation to the class on a text chosen from the recommended reading list. Students will also be responsible for regular posting to the class email list and message forum in response to the readings and course work.

A second goal of the course is to share and generate techniques and strategies for using online environments effectively to support reading-intensive courses. We will be discussing class texts both face to face and online in a variety of different ways, from iChat to message forums to the MOO.

A third goal of this course is to introduce graduate students to state-of-the-art technological tools that will support their studies and their scholarly work. These tools can help scholars conduct research, brainstorm papers and books, organize vast quantities of information, and format and present their work effectively for diverse audiences.

There are three main objectives for this course: to provide an introduction to foundational theories of distributed cognition, situated cognition, activity theory, and complex systems as well as their potential application in composition studies and rhetoric; to help students develop strategies for compiling and using working bibliographies, and to develop strategies and competencies for using technology to support scholarly work. We may discover that the usefulness of the theories is limited or inappropriate, or we may find them generative in thinking about composing situations. We will look closely not only at the theories themselves, but also at the methodologies used to explore them, and their presentation by various writers.


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