Designing Interactive Worlds with Words: Principles of Writing as Representational Composition

Designing Interactive Worlds with Words: Principles of Writing as Representational Composition

Designing Interactive Worlds with Words: Principles of Writing as Representational Composition

Designing Interactive Worlds with Words: Principles of Writing as Representational Composition

Synopsis

No two writing situations are exactly the same and skilled writers, like skilled painters, must develop the know-how to represent the objects of their writing as part of a flexible art. This special art of writing lies hidden between grammar--the well-formedness of sentences--and genre--the capacity of texts to perform culturally holistic communicative functions (e.g., the memo, the strategic report, the letter to the editor). Concealed between grammar and genre, this less visible art of writing is what Kaufer and Butler call "representational composition." Texts within this hidden art are best viewed not primarily as grammatical units or as genre functions, but as bearers of design elements stimulating imagistic, narrative, and information-rich worlds, and as an invitation to readers to explore and interact with them. This volume presents a systematic study of the principles that underlie writing as representational composition. Drawing from student models derived from a studio method, the authors use each chapter to present a different aspect of what unfolds--across the course of the book--into a cumulative, interactive, and unified body of representational principles underlying the design of texts. They reveal what makes the textual representations achieved by expert writers worthwhile, and, at the same time, difficult for novice writers to reproduce. Extending the framework of their 1996 volume, Rhetoric and the Arts of Design, into a realm of textual design, this volume will interest students and instructors of writing, rhetoric, and information design.

Excerpt

Joseph Petraglia Tcu

For over a century, educators in disciplines across the academy have been in a rut. in our pursuit to create tasks and environments that facilitate student learning, most of our efforts have been directed at making learning cognitively "elegant," at reducing the complexity of problems to what is believed to be their barest bones. This reduction is carried out in the belief that pedagogically sound problems are simple problems. in the last decade, however, many psychologists and educators have begun to call into question these reductive assumptions. Bundling information into increasingly streamlined cognitive packages, they argue, does not appear to be the answer. Research such as that conducted by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly eloquently demonstrates what most teachers intuitively know: students cannot be made to learn if they are not motivated to learn and if they perceive school tasks as irrelevant. Moreover, other research suggests that students have good cause for doubting the relevance of much schooling: many of the assignments we give students are, in fact, academic in the worst sense of the word. For these reasons, I have long argued that a central problem that educators face is that of making tasks "real" or authentic to students.

Though my own work has tried to frame this problem in an original way, the problem itself is not new. Even before our present interest in authenticity, educators had been sensitized to issues of relevance. in fact, the progressivist movement, which placed the "active learner" at the center of the classroom, was inspired largely by Dewey's insistence . . .

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