Thursday, 29 November 2012

Denaturalizing Academic Writing

In two recent articles, Lisa Clughen and Matt Connell have explored some of the issues involved in promoting ways of helping students to gain access to what often seem to be 'mysterious' practices associated with academic writing.

In one chapter they consider the confusions wrought by academic work and embrace the frequently advanced notion that social interaction is crucial for dealing with the opacities of academic writing. It draws from critical interest in dialogic forms of learning, wherein knowledge, in this case knowledge about one’s subject, about the specific expectations of the writing task and group knowledge about the different understandings and difficulties facing students as they write, is seen as ‘emerging from interaction and the interpenetration of different voices’. In the interests of building supportive communities for writing, their chapter offers dialogic lecture analysis as a technique that aims, on the one hand, to promote a sense of solidarity and shared identity amongst students as, together, they face the challenges of academic writing and, on the other hand, to stimulate tutor–student dialogue that opens the ground for tutor understandings of student confusions around writing.

In their other article, they explore how, while support for writing instruction amongst lecturers in UK Universities is high, lecturers often prefer it to be provided by dedicated study skills specialists operating outside subject curricula. Yet because of the well-documented problems with the skills approach (where literacy support frequently becomes a generic add-on), American models such as Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and Writing in the Disciplines (WID) make a strong claim that writing stratagems and thinking/theorizing within disciplines are actually intrinsically linked. It is accordingly now a commonplace in such literacy research that writing development needs to be contextualized within the disciplines, and interest in adapting such approaches to the UK context is burgeoning. They discuss how a recent project at Nottingham Trent University set out to explore the prospects for such an adaption through the piloting of an embedded approach in the Social Theory subject area, but the project ran into a series of resistances that came close to thwarting it entirely. The initial challenge lay in convincing time-poor subject lecturers to engage with the literacy initiative and to find space for it in an already saturated curriculum. Yet it seemed that behind the surface perception that the embedding of literacy development would be onerous, or would squeeze out core subject content, there lay a deeper attitude that such development was both ‘beneath’ subject lecturers and unconnected to the specific concerns of their academic discipline. This reflection piece, co-written by the academic support coordinator championing the initiative and the Social Theory Subject Leader, seeks to understand some of these attitudes, using the work of Sigmund Freud and Theodor W. Adorno to probe various psycho-social aspects of the phenomenon of resistance to the embedding of writing development in a discipline. What emerges is a reflection on practice which arguably reveals a certain complex around the status of teaching as opposed to lecturing, alongside a process of displaced resistance to the managerialist and vocationalizing discourse which is on the ascendency within UK universities.

Lisa Clughen and Matt Connell (2012), ‘Using Dialogic Lecture Analysis to Clarify Disciplinary Requirements for Writing’ in Lisa Clughen and Christine Hardy (eds.) Writing in the Disciplines: building supportive cultures for student writing in UK higher education, Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing. 

Lisa Clughen and Matt Connell ‘Writing and resistance: Reflections on the practice of embedding writing in the curriculum', Arts and Humanities in Higher EducationVol 11.4, October 2012


Friday, 23 November 2012

Consuming Isabel Allende

Earlier this year Maria Fanjul Fanful gave a conference paper based on her research into the significance for Isabel Allende's work to her readers.

She argued that previous work on Isabel Allende’s fiction has largely focussed on the analysis of textual elements. However, what has received little attention is the production and consumption of Allende’s writings in specific cultural contexts. With that in mind, her research analyses Spanish readers’ responses to Clara del Valle in The House of the Spirits.  This approach is part of a larger project whose main aim is to explore and critically interrogate Allende’s popularity cross-culturally among groups of readers in Britain and Spain. What this means is that the focus of this study has moved from texts to readers although Allende’s writings are not being neglected since they still constitute an important starting point to understand her popularity.

Maria Fanjul Fanjul, 'Isabel Allende’s Popularity from a Readership Perspective: Spanish Readers’ Responses to Clara del Valle in The House of the Spirits', XXXIX CONGRESO DEL INSTITUTO INTERNACIONAL DE LITERATURA IBEROAMERICANA (IILI) DIÁLOGOS CULTURALES, CÁDIZ, (SPAIN) 3- 6 JULY 2012

Monday, 19 November 2012

Digital Marx

In a recent article, Andreas Wittel offers ways of theorizing the political economy of distributed media. 

In 'Digital Marx', he starts from the claim that in the age of mass media the political economy of media has engaged with Marxist concepts in a rather limited way. In the age of digital media Marxist theory could and should be applied in a much broader sense to this field of research. The article provides a rationale for this claim with a two step approach. The first step is to produce evidence for the claim that political economy of mass media engaged with Marxist theory in a rather limited way. It is also to explain the logic behind this limited engagement. The second step – which really is the core objective of the article – is an exploration of key concepts of Marx’s political economy - such as labour, value, property and struggle - and a brief outline of their relevance for a critical analysis of digital media. These concepts are particularly relevant for a deeper understanding of phenomena such as non-market production, peer production, and the digital commons, and for interventions in debates on free culture, intellectual property, and free labour.

Andreas Wittel (2012), Digital Marx: Toward a Political Economy of Distributed Media, Triple C, 10(2)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Foucault: Power, Politics, Pleasure

Patrick O'Connor recently co-edited (with Keith Crome) a special edition of the Journal of British Society for Phenomenology (Vol 43, 1), entitled Foucault: Politics, Power, Pleasure. Contributors in this collection of essays focused around Foucault's use and treatment of the themes of power and pleasure. The twin axes of power and pleasure are at the heart of Foucault's studies of madness, medicine, punishment and sexuality and the thematic focus allowed contributors to focus on range of Foucault's work considering a range of issues (e.g. biopolitics, governmentality and the aesthetics of the self) in an effort to discuss some points of contact, contrast and conflict between Foucault's work and the phenomenological tradition in relation to the themes of power and pleasure.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Feminism and the Politics of Consumption

In her recent article in Feminist Media Studies, Joanne Hollows examines the significance of representations of both consumer culture and consumption practices in the British feminist magazine Spare Rib during its initial years of publication from 1972 to 1974. 

Her analysis identifies how the magazine combined an established feminist critique of consumer culture with guidance on responsible consumption practices. The dispositions towards consumption that are recommended to readers are shaped by four key values: these are health, the natural, economy and craft production. These values underpin a politics of consumption during a period in which Spare Rib attempted to negotiate a feminist identity. However, once this feminist identity was established, content centred around consumption rapidly diminished as it was apparently not “feminist” enough. The article questions how a “conventional” position was established against both consumer culture and consumption practices within second-wave feminism and raises questions about the impact of this position on feminism’s relationship to both consumer culture and consumption practices today. 

Joanne Hollows (2012), 'Spare Rib, Second-wave Feminism and the Politics of Consumption', Feminist Media Studies, DOI:10.1080/14680777.2012.708508