Margaret A Syverson
Associate Professor — Ph.D., 1994, University of California, San Diego
Associate Professor, Director of the Undergraduate Writing Center
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 512-471-8734
- Office: PAR 124
Margaret Syverson is the Director of the Computer Writing and Research Lab in the Division of Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches graduate level and undergraduate courses such as "Virtual Worlds," "Computers and Controversy," "Knowledge Ecology," and "Information Architecture" in well-equipped networked classrooms, where students have the opportunity to create Web sites, standalone hypertexts, multimedia projects, and MOO spaces (in text-based environments online). These classes also develop students' skills and experience with email, Web research, and real-time conferencing. You can find information about Dr. Syverson and her recent classes at http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~syverson.
The Online Learning Record, a portfolio based assessment system developed by Professor Syverson is used for student evaluation in all of her courses, and was the subject of a Carnegie Scholars project. Information about the Online Learning Record is available at http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~syverson/olr. Professor Syverson's dissertation research, conducted at the University of California, San Diego, focused on the application of complex systems theories and distributed cognition in composition studies. Her recent book,The Wealth of Reality: An Ecology of Composition, was published by Southern Illinois University Press. She is Chair of the Board of Directors for the Center for Language in Learning, and Editor of Computers and Composition Journal's online site. Her work on evaluating learning in MOOs and MUDs has been supported through a CAETI grant. Recently, her collaborative online composition Worlds Fair received an Innovations in Instructional Technology Award from The University of Texas.
E 388M • Minds, Texts, And Technology
MW 330pm-500pm FAC 10
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 has suggested some intriguing possibilities. This seminar will explore some of the foundational theories emerging from this research and their potential for informing English and composition studies. 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 literature, 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 responses to the assigned readings on the class wiki. They will prepare a short presentation to the class on a text chosen from the recommended reading list. Students will also be responsible for developing an academic project suitable for publication in print or online.
E 388M • Knowledge Ecologies
MW 330pm-500pm PAR 104
In an information-saturated world, we find ourselves scrambling and overwhelmed. Much of the information that washes over us is useless, some of it is dead wrong, and all of it creates the phenomenon known as "information anxiety," the desperate attempt to keep on top of the information flood. Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about "information design" or "information architecture," the use of careful design to help manage and navigate large complex sets of information.
But information design is only a part of the solution. The real issue is how information becomes knowledge, and how it connects with existing knowledge to expand or reorganize what we know and do. Knowledge is information in use, applied in specific contexts for particular purposes. We inhabit various "knowledge ecologies," which range in scale from the culture as a whole, through media such as newspapers and television, to shared friendships, a classroom, a writing desk with all of its tools and resources. Most of these ecosystems involve people; knowledge "artifacts" such as books, web sites, and other media; technologies; social structures; and environmental influences. They are dynamic, constantly changing systems, through which information flows and knowledge is constructed. Knowledge that is constructed is directed back into the system to inform the development of more knowledge; and all of this knowledge is part of how activity gets accomplished in a particular environment, whether it is the operating room of a hospital, a second-grade classroom, a high-tech business, or a government agency.
Students in this seminar will investigate real-world knowledge ecologies, track information flows and activity in these systems, and design projects to help support emerging knowledge construction in knowledge ecosystems.
Thinking in Systems, a Primer. Donella Meadows
Cognition in the Wild, Edwin Hutchins
The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society, Kenneth Boulding
Ecologies of Knowledge: Work and Politics in Science and Technology, Susan Leigh Star
Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart, Bonnie Nardi
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Bateson
Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages, Alex Wright
1. A major research project leading to a publishable article or composition in text, multimedia, website, wiki, or other online medium, project to be negotiated with instructor. This project will be completed in stages:
a. A project proposal of two pages
b. Observational field research in a knowledge ecosystem: an office, classroom, a hospital unit, a non-profit organization, for example.
c. Report of recommendations for the benefit of the system.
d. The final presentation as article or composition, suitable for publication or conference presentation.
2. Regular digital presentations on the research project.
Evaluation is via the Learning Record, a portfolio‑based system fully described on the web at www.learningrecord.org. Students construct and submit a midterm Learning Record and a Final Learning Record composed of samples of their work, observations, and interpretations of their own development on the basis of five dimensions of learning.