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Net/work composing the posthuman self
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Mason, Julia L
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Service learning
Video game
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ABSTRACT: The overall question this dissertation asks is: what does it mean to teach posthumans? To answer this question, this dissertation turns toward scholarship on the body in order to understand the virtual and material presence that students develop, it looks to online video gaming communities as alternative classrooms providing effective models of learning, and it investigates the circulation of service learning pedagogies within academic institutions as a marker of the persistence of humanistic values within the framework of a posthuman work environment. The American university in general, and the humanities specifically, is struggling to make sense of its place in a culture shaped by fast capitalism, oppositional politics, boutique multiculturalism, social hierarchies, free markets, technological revolution, international conflict, and a host of other phenomena that challenge the university as a site of traditional humanistic inquiry.At the same time, these forces highlight the university's more modern roles in the knowledge economy as a credentialing service, gatekeeper, and commercial incubator. Such conditions represent yet another crisis of humanism. The contemporary posthuman world to which universities are beholden is characterized by transgressed boundaries, flexible identities, radical transparency, ubiquitous technology, networked subjectivity, and a loss of confidence in the universal narratives and notions of essential humanity that provided impetus to Western thinking for millennia. Colleges are struggling, whether they know it or not, to exist in, and prepare students for, this posthuman world.Perhaps the greatest promise of a responsible posthuman education is the potential to produce citizens who are critically technologically literate and able to rethink their relation to political systems, to the environment, to economies, to technologies, to work, and to leisure, without totally abandoning the humanistic values attendant to a liberal education. Part of this education must include enabling students to see social systems as technologies which can be adopted in order to produce different modes of being. Only then can the productive tension between humanism and posthumanism become a part of higher education.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Julia L. Mason.

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University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 163 pages.
Includes vita.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: The overall question this dissertation asks is: what does it mean to teach posthumans? To answer this question, this dissertation turns toward scholarship on the body in order to understand the virtual and material presence that students develop, it looks to online video gaming communities as alternative classrooms providing effective models of learning, and it investigates the circulation of service learning pedagogies within academic institutions as a marker of the persistence of humanistic values within the framework of a posthuman work environment. The American university in general, and the humanities specifically, is struggling to make sense of its place in a culture shaped by fast capitalism, oppositional politics, boutique multiculturalism, social hierarchies, free markets, technological revolution, international conflict, and a host of other phenomena that challenge the university as a site of traditional humanistic inquiry.At the same time, these forces highlight the university's more modern roles in the knowledge economy as a credentialing service, gatekeeper, and commercial incubator. Such conditions represent yet another crisis of humanism. The contemporary posthuman world to which universities are beholden is characterized by transgressed boundaries, flexible identities, radical transparency, ubiquitous technology, networked subjectivity, and a loss of confidence in the universal narratives and notions of essential humanity that provided impetus to Western thinking for millennia. Colleges are struggling, whether they know it or not, to exist in, and prepare students for, this posthuman world.Perhaps the greatest promise of a responsible posthuman education is the potential to produce citizens who are critically technologically literate and able to rethink their relation to political systems, to the environment, to economies, to technologies, to work, and to leisure, without totally abandoning the humanistic values attendant to a liberal education. Part of this education must include enabling students to see social systems as technologies which can be adopted in order to produce different modes of being. Only then can the productive tension between humanism and posthumanism become a part of higher education.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Debra Jacobs, Ph.D.
Service learning
Video game
Dissertations, Academic
x English
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


Net/Work: Composing the Posthuman Self by Julia L. Mason A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Debra Jacobs, Ph.D. Elizabeth Metzger, Ph.D. Gary A. Olson, Ph.D. Laura Runge, Ph.D. Kim Vaz, Ph.D. Date of Approval: June 18, 2008 Keywords: gender, body, pedagogy, service learning, video game Copyright 2008, Julia L. Mason


i Table of Contents Abstract........................................... ................................................... ..............iii Chapter 1 – Introduction : Ecce Post-Homo.......... ...........................................1 Education, Literacy, and Technology................ .....................................5 Critical Posthumanism.............................. .............................................9 Humanity Redux..................................... .............................................14 Identity Redux..................................... .................................................19 Community Redux.................................... ...........................................25 Chapter Overview................................... .............................................28 Chapter 2 – Posthuman Bodies....................... ...............................................33 Of Patterns and Presence........................... .........................................35 Metaphysics and the Masculine (and the Feminine)... .........................38 Gender Machines.................................... ............................................44 Woman Incorporated................................. ..........................................49 Materiality in Theory.............................. ...............................................60 Chapter 3 – Posthuman Classrooms................... ...........................................67 Gaming the Classroom............................... .........................................70 Writing as Gaming.................................. .............................................72 Texting a Quest.................................... ...............................................77 Guilding the Writer................................ ...............................................84 Gaming as Productive Social Practice............... ..................................89 Writing(:) the Future of Video Games in Education.. ............................96 Chapter 4 – Posthuman Institutions................. ...............................................98


ii Working through Posthumanism....................... .................................104 The Service Machine................................ .........................................109 Free Labor and the Production of Marketable Univers ities................114 Service Learning in the Knowledge Economy.......... ..........................120 Ranking Service: Serving Rankings.................. .................................126 Re-establishing the Posthuman Value of Service..... .........................131 Chapter 5 – Posthuman (In)Conclusions.............. ........................................136 Political Posthumanism............................. .........................................138 Notes.............................................. ................................................... ...........146 Works Cited........................................ ................................................... .......150 About the Author................................... ................................................... ...........


iii Net/Work: Composing the Posthuman Self Julia L. Mason ABSTRACT The overall question this dissertation asks is: wha t does it mean to teach posthumans? To answer this question, this dissertat ion turns toward scholarship on the body in order to understand the virtual and material presence that students develop, it looks to online video gaming communitie s as alternative classrooms providing effective models of learning, and it inve stigates the circulation of service learning pedagogies within academic institutions as a marker of the persistence of humanistic values within the framework of a posthum an work environment. The American university in general, and the humanit ies specifically, is struggling to make sense of its place in a culture shaped by fast capitalism, oppositional politics, boutique multiculturalism, s ocial hierarchies, free markets, technological revolution, international conflict, a nd a host of other phenomena that challenge the university as a site of traditional h umanistic inquiry. At the same time, these forces highlight the universityÂ’s more modern roles in the knowledge economy as a credentialing service, gatekeeper, and commercial incubator. Such conditions represent yet another crisis of humanism The contemporary posthuman world to which universities are beholden is characterized by transgressed boundaries, flexible identities, radic al transparency, ubiquitous


iv technology, networked subjectivity, and a loss of c onfidence in the universal narratives and notions of essential humanity that p rovided impetus to Western thinking for millennia. Colleges are struggling, wh ether they know it or not, to exist in, and prepare students for, this posthuman world. Perhaps the greatest promise of a responsible posth uman education is the potential to produce citizens who are critically te chnologically literate and able to rethink their relation to political systems, to the environment, to economies, to technologies, to work, and to leisure, without tota lly abandoning the humanistic values attendant to a liberal education. Part of th is education must include enabling students to see social systems as technolo gies which can be adopted in order to produce different modes of being. Only the n can the productive tension between humanism and posthumanism become a part of higher education.


1 Chapter 1 Introduction: Ecce Post-Homo Instead of the standard “Man of the Year,” the phra se “Machine of the Year” graced the 1982 cover of Time magazine, with the accompanying line, “the computer moves in.”1 This cover art depicts two figures—a man on the le ft and a machine on the right—each taking up similar space o n the page. The machine, while hardly futuristic looking, appears more moder n when contrasted with the simple red desk atop which the machine sits. The sc reen is bright blue, with two small bolts of yellow jutting downward on the scree n. It’s difficult for a viewer to determine what (if anything) is being displayed on it. On the left half of the cover is a man, of perhaps forty or fifty years and baldi ng, seated and gazing at the computer’s screen. We can’t see much of his face, s ince he is turned toward the machine. His arms and hands rest limply in his lap and his whole body is washed in a grey-blue color that makes him look more like a stone sculpture than a living human. He is motionless. Man and machine are separa te here, and the man stares blankly at the screen, perhaps in amazement. This image suggests that man and machine are different, separate, and perhap s even distant. The human and the inhuman meet but do not incorporate. With the exception of 1988, when earth was named “P lanet of the Year,” each year between 1983 and 2006, Time selected a man, woman, or group to


2 adorn their annual cover. In 2007, however, man and machine appeared on the cover once again. The 2007 “Person of the Year” was “you.” In a use of magazine cover technology that was critiqued as sil ly and crude, the editors placed a semi-reflective mirror-like rectangle on t he cover. The reader sees herself, and thus, “You”, are 2007’s person of the year. On seeing the cover, or perhaps, seeing her own image on the cover, she may almost miss the means by which “you” are reflected. Around the mirror materi al you can barely see the edge of a slim computer screen. Human and machine are no longer distinct; they are one. This is the posthuman moment. The melding of man and machine is a popular, if sim plistic, marker of the posthuman. It is a powerful image. Feminist scholar Donna Haraway uses the figure of the cyborg, a man/machine blend, as a mea ns to examine feminism, politics, and technology. Haraway’s notion of the cyborg is, in part, a criticism of what might be called the traditional feminism of th e late twentieth century. She considers this feminism limited by the very binary subject positions it seeks to undermine. In a sense, adopting the vocabulary of binaries only serves to reinforce their existence and their power. In her 1991 article, A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Femin ism in the Late Twentieth Century Haraway employs the cyborg as a metaphor through which to explore the implications of feminism and feminist theory be yond binaries and beyond boundaries. Through this cyborg metaphor, Haraway argues for th e rejection of identity politics in favor of affinity politics, which in Ha raways view, is a more useful


3 political/ideological position from which to advanc e the aims of feminism. The cyborg, a melding of human and machine into a cyb ernetic org anism, is a thorough mixing of all those elements that we might consider opposed, for instance, male/female, mind/body, and human/machine These mixes are so inextricably blended that they cannot be separated and perhaps, cannot be distinguished. To some, it is frightening to realize that humans a nd machines might be linked so strongly that they cannot be separated. In some cases, their parts are so indistinguishable that it is impossible to ident ify what is natural and what is artificial. It is perhaps this fear that has drive n individuals to try to understand the implications of this aspect of posthumanism. Popul ar films such as Terminator as well as sci-fi classics such as the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, examine what happens when the wholeness and “purity ” of the natural human body is threatened, and in effect, attempt to recon cile the effects of posthumanism. Posthumanism represented in popular culture allows us to see that the “crisis in humanism is everywhere. Neil B admington, cultural critic and theorist, notes that “the reign of Man is simultane ously being called into question by literature, politics, cinema, anthropology, femi nism, and technology” (9). Thus, both the autonomy and supremacy of man is being que stioned in nearly every aspect of modern existence. In the years since the popularization of the perso nal computer in Western cultures, we see an increasing number of articles, books, video games, and movies each depicting and interpreting various mean ings of posthumanism to


4 individuals, communities, and larger cultures. News paper, internet, academic articles, and longer works that discuss the relatio nship between man and machine are quite commonplace, appearing in every d iscipline from art to medicine to business. Pop culture explores the impl ications of posthumanism through various visual means, creating video games, science fiction serials, films, music and so on, through which both the promising a nd hopeful aspects of man/machine hybrids, as well as the more horrific a nd graphic possibilities of man/machine blends can be investigated. In scholarly writing, it may seem that we have arri ved at the end of the debate about what posthumanism looks like. With cel l phones in our pockets, mp3 players in our ears, and email and internet vid eo at our fingertips, the technologically-enabled cyborg may be the student w ho just walked into your classroom. Of course, the cyborg figure also provok es a certain anxiety that Allucqure Rosanne Stone, in her article “Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?: Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures,” titles “c yborg envy.” She explains cyborg envy as the desire to transcend the boundari es that separate human from machine, a desire “to penetrate and merge” (108). This suggests the possibility that those interested in posthumanism are putting t oo much faith in the technologically-enhanced body to lead us away from humanism. Academic treatments emerging from posthumanism have provided thoughtful discussions on topics such as the ethica l issues surrounding medical advances, communication technologies, labor mechani zation, and fictional worlds. Each of these investigations necessarily pl aces these technologies in the


5 context of some definition of the human, and these technologies’ expansion or contraction of the humanity of the subject. In the past, it was easy to describe and investigate new technologies in terms of their relationship to humans—how they made our lives easier, what they could help us do better and faster, and what new things they could help us accomplish. As technology becomes more present and more advanced, it is taking over many o f the activities previously undertaken in cooperation with humans. Machines are doing things all by themselves. As the technology has changed, our rel ationship to technology has also changed, requiring new and better ways to medi ate our connection. The increasing autonomy of machines has demanded new wa ys of thinking and talking about the human-machine connection, especia lly in the past few decades. Education, Literacy, and Technology The proliferation of personal computers in the 1990 ’s brought technological literacy to the forefront of discussi ons about education in the United States. While the U.S. Department of Education was defining technological literacy as “computer skills and the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity, and performance” ( Getting 5), the academy was developing more nuanced and careful definitions. This new attention to technology and its use in edu cation developed into an entirely new area for study, complete with its o wn journals and scholars devoted to its examination. Sponsored by The Counc il on Technology Teacher Education and the International Technology Educatio n Association, The Journal


6 of Technology Education published its first issue in the Fall of 1989 in o rder to fill a gap in the scholarly conversation where practitio ners and theorists could exchange dialogue about the place of technology in public schools, particularly as it was becoming more and more accessible. In th ose early issues, contributors discussed issues surrounding the use o f technology in the classroom and its use in individual disciplines, pedagogical practice, and areas for further study. All of these areas, in some manner, contrib uted to our changing understandings about issues of technological litera cy. In a 1993 issue of The Journal of Technology Education Walter Waetjen cautions, “[technological literacy] surely cannot b e a neutrally intended term since it is related to educational endeavors and all such endeavors are laden with purpose or value, whether we like it or not, and wh ether we intend it or not” (9). Issues of technological literacy are laden with pol itical and ethical debate, as well as the strong economic and social pressures attenda nt to all education. In communication scholarship, theorists have shaped ou r understanding of the posthuman by building upon the discussions of techn ological and electronic literacy. For the most part, these understandings have included both the promises and problems of this evolving literacy. The definition of technological literacy offered by the U.S. Department of Education adopts a rosy view of the effects of our use of technology, one which promises progress and improvement in measurable qua ntities such as productivity. In Cyberculture, Cyborgs and Science Fiction: Consciou sness and the Posthuman William Haney calls this the “friendly version of posthumanism,


7 [in which] tools such as the pen or the computer ar e not just external aids but integral aspects of the problem-solving systems tha t civilizations have developed over the ages” (59). In other words, this approach to technological literacy humanizes technology by placing it within the narra tive of human progress and continuous improvement. In this narrative, technolo gy does not threaten the category of the human because humans have dominated it to their will, and thus, humanism is not in crisis. This narrative ignores the more threatening aspects of posthumanism which transgress the boundaries of identity, meanin g, and knowledge. It ignores the possibility that the “irreversible process ofte n referred to as progress tends to strip the human body and mind of their systems of i nitiative and defense, reassigning these functions to technological artifa cts” (Baudrillard 34). This is Baudrillard’s invocation in “Prophylaxis and Virule nce” of the fear voiced by Socrates over 2000 years ago that writing would des troy one’s memory, that technology will assume the very functions which mak e us human. It’s a truism that as our world becomes more technologically adva nced, the number of people who have a firm understanding of the technologies e nabling everyday life decreases. Consider the case of Alaska senator Ted Stevens, wh o when discussing net neutrality (the idea that content and services on the internet should not be restricted), said this about the internet: “It's no t a big truck. It's a series of tubes.” Earlier he explained that “an Internet” (what most would call an “email”) sent by his staff had been delayed—perhaps he believed the tubes were clogged. Not


8 only are politicians afflicted with such technologi cal illiteracy. Consider how increasingly difficult it is for people to fix thei r own cars, to identify the parts of major appliances, or to explain how a UPC code read er works. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke: any sufficiently advanced technol ogy is indistinguishable from magic. The goal of technological literacy is not simply to get people to understand the mechanics of and the jargon associated with the machines around them. Nor can technological literacy simply mean the ability to use technology. Both approaches leave individuals unprepared to perceive the ideological values embedded in all technologies. Rather, the prolifera tion of newer and more abundant technologies demand Cynthia Selfe’s "criti cal technological literacy," which she defines as "the complex set of socially a nd culturally situated values, practices, and skills involved in operating linguis tically within the context of electronic environments, including reading, writing and communicating” ( Technology 148). Such a critical literacy requires more than b eing able to operate within technology-saturated environments, b ut also to recognize how these environments operate on us, and to recognize the mutually constitutive relation we have with technology, a relation which is never just an enhancement (or corrosion) of our humanity, but a recognition o f a dialectic without which humanity could not be conceived. A step beyond technological literacy, critical tech nological literacy, Selfe says, encourages a “reflective awareness of these s ocial and cultural phenomena.” Now firmly in the posthuman era, it is time to revisit our


9 understanding of critical technological literacy in order to both better utilize technologies and to examine the ideological values from which and t hrough which these technologies function. By reflecting on the state of higher education, this dissertation hopes to advance a critical under standing of the posthuman fusion of human and machine, and a shift towards understanding human as machine. Critical Posthumanism "The posthuman does not really mean the end of huma nity." N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman This dissertation attempts to theorize the relation between the posthuman and higher education by looking at three sites of i nquiry: bodies, classrooms, and institutions. These sites do not exhaust the points of contact between the posthuman and the academy. Nor do they attempt to p redict the origins or goals of posthumanist theory. Rather, posthumanismÂ’s own insistence on the significance of the complexity of embodiment and ma teriality suggests the relevance of selecting positions from/in/through wh ich to understand the lived experience of posthumanism. The positions of studen t, teacher, and administrator (or, if you like, the locations of de sk, classroom, and office), will be used to understand the evolving relationship betwee n posthumanism and higher education. The overall question it asks is: what do es it mean to teach posthumans? To answer this question, this dissertat ion turns toward scholarship on the body in order to understand the virtual/mate rial presence that students


10 maintain, as well as pedagogies that incorporate vi deo games and service learning in order to prepare students for posthuman work and leisure environments. As Katherine Hayles notes in the statement above, t he posthuman does not mean an end to humanism; it does not mean an en d to the belief in the centrality of the human experience (and the human in experience). Posthumanism does not attempt to ring the death kne ll of the subject because to do so would be to deny the always already construct ed nature of subjectivity, to imagine a pure state of selfhood from which technol ogy now separates us. As Neil Badmington writes: “There is no pure outside t o which ‘we’ can leap. To oppose humanism by claiming to have left it behind is to overlook the way that opposition is articulated” (9). To critique humanis m is to speak the language of man that constitutes humanism. Just as Derrida’s de construction used the language of the text to enable deconstruction, ther eby inhabiting the text even more fully, we can only extend posthumanism by inha biting the language and concerns of the humanistic tradition. As Richard Ro rty put it, the “trouble with arguments against the use of a familiar and time-ho nored vocabulary is that they are expected to be phrased in that very vocabulary” (8). The vocabulary (and influence) of humanism can not be dismissed, nor sh ould it be. One might say that we have always been posthuman, e specially if one recognizes the many ways in which humanism has recu rrently been in crisis. In Ecrits Jacques Lacan said that after Freud, who identifi ed an unconscious motivation to our conscious action, “the very centr e of the human being was no


11 longer to be found at the place assigned to it by a whole humanist tradition” (114). By positing an unconscious which influenced the thoughts and actions of a person without it being readily available for scrut iny, Freud undercut the notion of a rational and self-aware ego upon which post-Enlig htenment humanism was built. This is the initiation of the modern crisis in humanism—the scientific observation that we are neither in total control of our own bodies, nor totally aware of our own selves. But we no longer need Freu d to feel that the essence of our humanity is in question. Our vastly increased e xposure to media, the decline in traditional communities, the diversification of American culture, the integration of international economies, and the development of terror and fear as weapons in global conflict have all intensified this feeling o f loss of control. The composing of the self to which this dissertatio n’s title alludes is not simply a reference to an impossibility, or to a nos talgia already deconstructed by postmodern and poststructuralist accounts of subjec tivity, but rather an admission that humanism continues to be a significa nt force because subjectivity has always been constructed in collaboration with o ther bodies, discourses, and technologies. To be human is to part of a dynamic d istributed system of thought, word, and image which necessarily limits the useful ness of binaries such as human/inhuman or private/public. Critical insights from a number of different theoretical schools enable us to track the composit ion of posthuman subjectivity. William Spanos tells us that there are many “manife stations of posthumanist theory—Heidegger’s destruction, Derrid a’s deconstruction, Lacan’s psychoanalysis, Kristeva’s semiotics, Foucault’s ge nealogy, [and] Althusser’s


12 neo-Marxism” (189). Michel Foucault explicitly link s the construction of self with intentional techniques he has called “technologies of the self”: those activities which "permit individuals to effect by their own me ans . a certain number of operations on their own bodies, and souls, thought, conduct, and way of being" ( Technologies 18). Humanism is always in process and “never manag es to constitute itself; it forever rewrites itself as po sthumanism” (Badmington 9). The American university in general, and the humanit ies specifically, are struggling to make sense of its place in a culture shaped by fast capitalism, oppositional politics, boutique multiculturalism, s ocial hierarchies, free markets, technological revolution, international conflict, a nd a host of other phenomena that challenge the university as a site of traditio nal humanistic inquiry. At the same time, these forces reinforce the university’s more modern roles in the knowledge economy as a credentialing service, gatek eeper, and commercial incubator. Such a turn towards vocationalism repres ents yet another crisis of humanism. The contemporary world is characterized b y transgressed boundaries, flexible identities, radical transparen cy, ubiquitous technology, networked subjectivity, and a loss of confidence in the universal narratives and notions of essential humanity that provided impetus to Western thinking for millennia. Teachers, students, and administrators a re struggling, whether they know it or not, to exist in a posthuman world. But “making sense” of such phenomena may be precise ly what is making it difficult for higher education to fully embrace posthumanism, for meaning is conventionally a belief in the consequentiality and centrality of human action,


13 meaningfulness made available through the human fac ulties valued by Enlightenment means of inquiry. The idea of a unive rsity is, put simply, founded in humanism. As Spanos notes in The End of Education: Towards Posthumanism the assumptions of the “modern humanist universit y—its abiding commitment to disinterested inquiry, to general edu cation (the core curriculum or common body of indispensable knowledge), and to the principle that the university constitutes a value-free (apolitical) sp ace” are extensions of the Enlightenment project which puts its ultimate faith in humanity as opposed to a divine or supernatural figure ( xvii ). But these commitments can no longer be assumed. Increasingly, universities are moving towa rd interested inquiry (commercially viable and sponsored research), away from general education (in the shape of specialized degree programs), and towa rd politicized curriculums (witness the ongoing debates over indoctrination fu eling the proposals of an Academic Bill of Rights by the likes of David Horow itz). In light of these movements, the liberal humanism o n which higher education is often justified may be fueling an ongo ing crisis that originated in a contradiction between the humanist roots of academi a and the posthuman world into which students are graduating and to which uni versities are attempting to appeal. In fact, Spanos identifies this crisis as e merging from the structure of the university itself, which divides knowledge into dis ciplinary types, separating philosophical inquiry from scientific inquiry—truth from power. It is only in recognizing the “complicity of truth and power” und erlying both liberal and


14 conservative reforms, he writes, that we can develo p programmatic alternatives that do not merely return us to an uncritical human ism (xiv). The remainder of this chapter provides an introduct ion to posthumanist theory, emphasizing the ways in which the tradition ally humanistic goals of higher education relate to the posthuman world where stude nts, teachers, and administrators exist. It considers current academic treatments of the posthuman and the tendency to associate the posthuman most st rongly with technological change, rather on the many changes in material, pol itical, and economic conditions of social life that affect what it means to be human. It identifies three major areas of posthumanist inquiry that will resur face throughout all of the chapters: changes in our ideas of humanity, identit y, and community. Humanity Redux “There is in effect something that humans are or ha ve to be, but this something is not an essence nor properly a thing: It is the simple fact of one’s own existence as possibility or pote ntiality .” – Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community As Neil Badmington points out in the introduction t o his edited collection, Posthumanism even such an ambiguous term may serve as a “conve nient shorthand for a general crisis in something that ‘w e’ must just as helplessly call ‘humanism’” (2). Humanism is no simple concept. Tracing the term “humanism” through its use in vari ous scholarship, Badmington posits that “humanism” is a “wonderfully vague concept,” one whose meaning depends greatly on the context in which it is used (2). In America and


15 Britain, for instance, the term was heavily associa ted with secularism. While this tradition serves to posit humanism as a progressive alternative to the domination of autocracy and theocracy, in Humanism and Anti-Humanism Kate Soper notes that it also “appeals (positively) to the notion of a core humanity or common essential feature in terms of which human beings ca n be defined and understood” (11–12). Even among its scholars, ther e is divergence in its definition. The helplessness Badmington references above is a r ecurrent theme in discussions of posthumanism. In 1977, Ihab Hassan w rote that posthumanism was a “dubious neologism” that may be “another imag e of man’s recurrent selfhate” or a “hint at the potential in our culture” ( Qtd. in Badmington 2). He further stated that “five hundred years of humanism may be coming to an end, as humanism transforms itself into something that we m ust helplessly call posthumanism.” This sense of loss (of control, of t radition, of identity, of a center, of purpose, of comfort) is part of the crisis of hu manism. In order to distinguish what is rejected, lost, and/or modified in the move ment to posthumanism, it may make sense to start off with some discussion with w hat is at stake in the term “humanism.” Discussing humanism in a 1977 interview included in Language, CounterMemory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interview Michel Foucault explains why the ideology of humanism has maintained its hold on western culture. Foucault states, humanism is the


16 . totality of discourse through which Western m an is told. . Humanism invented a whole series of sovereignties: the soul (ruling the body, but subjected to God, consciousness (sovereign in a con text of judgment, but subjected to the necessities of truth), the individ ual (a titular control of personal rights subjected to the laws of nature and society), basic freedom (sovereign within, but accepting the demands of an outside world and ‘aligned with destiny’). In short, humanism is ever ything in Western civilization that restricts the desire for power .: the theory of the subject (in the double sense of the word) is at the heart of hu manism and this is why our culture has tenaciously rejected anything that could weaken its hold upon us.” (“Revolutionary” 221–22) Foucault here provides some explanation for the ten aciousness of humanism and the subjectivity it supports. In this case, hum anism is supported by a series of “sovereignties”—self-contained ruling “entities” in their own right that complicate each other and that constitute humanism. But even though Foucault describes such concepts as soul, consciousness, ind ividuality, and freedom as sovereign ruling powers acting upon the “self,” the y are themselves contained within the larger economy of humanism that subjugat es them. Without humanism, Foucault suggests, the desire for power w ould exist unrestricted, leaving current power structures open to critique a nd challenge. In “Foucault and the Politics of Resistance” Brent Pickett moves Foucault’s project forward in a way that is somewha t different than other scholars by understanding Foucault as a theorist of democrac y. This understanding is the


17 means though which Pickett gets at “The humanist qu estion, ‘What Is Man?’.” Pickett explains that this question “assumes that m an has an ahistorical essence, and thus eliminates the possibility of critique, of reflexive self-creation and autonomy" (451–52). For Foucault, humanism is there fore a conservative force necessary for maintaining the status quo, since it is through a concept of the human that individuals accept current power relatio ns, seeing them as an extension of the human essence, and therefore const rain their desire for radical change. Perhaps this, limiting the desire for change, is wh y Donna Haraway describes her “Cyborg Manifesto” as an “ironic poli tical myth.” She describes using irony as a “rhetorical strategy and a politic al method” that she would like to see used in feminism to hold “incompatiple things t ogether because both or all are necessary and true” (149). At the center of th is irony is the cyborg, a figure that “is our ontology; it gives us our politics” (6 9; 70). Haraway cautions against remaining locked within the “comfortable old hierar chical dominations” maintained in traditional institutions of knowledge and power and the reassuring endorsements of subjectivity and identity presented in narrative and law (77). Posthumanism gives us the means by which to functio n outside of those hierarchies. Moving outside old hierarchies necess itates “fundamental changes in the nature of class, race, and gender” that atte nd an increasingly interconnected world. The new world order emerging from posthumanity “not only undermines the justifications for patriarchy, colon ialism, humanism, positivism,


18 essentialism, scientism, and other lamented –isms, but all claims for an organic or natural standpoint” (76). Knowing that one is hu man is no longer enough. The loss of a clear and exclusive definition of the category of “human” leads us to ask the question asked by Jean-Franois Lyotard in The Inhuman : “What if human beings, in humanism’s sense, were in the process of, constrained into becoming inhuman . what if what is ‘proper ’ to humankind were to be inhabited by the inhuman?” (2). In this posthuman w orld, we find the body and the mind no longer opposed, but integrated as part of a larger circuit that extends beyond the individual, incorporating other bodies, other minds, and other machines into one’s existence. We are no longer mer ely parts of systems; we are systems. Envisioning the body as an integrated system is not unrelated to the move to an information economy. In the information econo my, individuals have access to an unprecedented amount of information that requ ires us to find ways to process, filter, and manage it. Because data is st ored in servers and on hard drives and electronically reproduced, essentially, it is never destroyed. This glut of information remains invisible within a database until processed and presented, and demands increasingly sophisticated visualizatio n techniques to make the data coherent. As Johndan Johnson-Eilola, a communi cation theorist who deals with issues surrounding the information economy, wr ites, such databases “can no longer be processed by the user as a coherent st ructure, but constitutes a data cloud” (200). The many online services that al low users to establish personalized “portals” through which they can conne ct to selected information


19 feeds and network with acquaintances of their choos ing are a marker of the degree to which the technologies needed to process large amounts of information have become part of our personal identi ties. And information does not merely flow to the user. W ith the introduction of web 2.0 technologies that allow users to supply the content of web sites, this is also a world in which we are increasingly defined b y the information we offer willingly as online text or uploaded media. Conside r, for example, the incredible growth in the content of a site such as YouTube, wh ich allows users to contribute to the database and offers tools for users to sort, select, and comment on its content. Not all information is willingly given, h owever; much is unknowingly collected about us through internet cookies and oth er (less benign) code scripts. Companies mine this surreptitiously collected data, for instance, in order to discover patterns that can help them identify poten tial consumers. In the contemporary world, all of us have taken on a virtu al identity that is being recorded and analyzed elsewhere. Identity Redux “In cyberspace, I can change my self as easily as I change clothes. Identity becomes infinitely plastic in a play of im ages that knows no .end. Consistency is no longer a virtue but becomes a vice; …. integration is limitation. With everything always s hifting, everyone is no one.” – Mark C. Taylor and Esa Saarinen, Imagologies Over the last fifty years, composition scholars hav e developed various methods for understanding the construction and main tenance of identity and


20 meaning through writing and for designing and asses sing effective methods for enhancing student literacy. At the heart of most p edagogies’ practices is the assumption of a proper method of engagement. Where humanism posits a difference between the subject and the object, post humanism unearths the always-already relational nature of being. Thus, wh ere humanists might attempt to understand the role of technology in social life as a question of humans controlling technology or technology controlling hu mans, posthumanists see an interdependent and mutually controlling relationshi p and move on to questions of production and consumption rather than strategies o f dominance. Academic accounts of subjectivity have yet to fully articulate the implications of posthumanism for educational instit utions, nor have teachers determined how best to accommodate these changes pe dagogically. Social construction approaches to identity recognize that the “self fabricates a coherent identity” from available materials, but in talking of subjects in general, it is common to fall into a form of environmental determi nism that reduces this selffabrication to the convergence of systemic forces ( Foucault, “Nietzsche” 145). Brian Massumi has argued in his book Parables for the Virtual that most accounts of subject formation “emphasize systemic s tructurings,” embrace a language of positionality (of one’s location on a g rid, within an “oppositional framework of culturally constructed significations” ) and treat the body as merely the “local embodiment of ideology” (2–3). These accounts fail to grasp the complexity of human subjects, he argues, because th ey portray individuals as


21 inhabiting static identity positions between which movement is possible rather than as subjects continually in motion. Massumi’s critique of social constructionist theori es of subjectivity corresponds well with Mark C. Taylor’s description in The Moment of Complexity of the change from the “Cold War system [of grids] to network culture” that Taylor argues began in 1989 (23). According to Taylor, a m ovement from walls to webs was significant because “walls divide and seclude i n an effort to impose order and control, [and] webs link and relate, entangling everyone in multiple, mutating, and mutually defining connections” ( Moment 23). Living in posthuman network culture constitutes a change in what it means to be a subject—a “self—if, indeed this term any longer makes sense—is a node in a com plex network of relations. . subjectivity is nodular ” ( Moment 231). Nodular selves, according to Masumi, must necessarily accept what he calls the body’s “i ncorporeal materialism”—the interweaving of the material and the virtual (15). Only then can we see our bodies as “incarnations of worldwide webs and global netwo rks” (Taylor Moment 17). Living in such a world is, to use Jean-Franois Lyo tard’s term, living with the differend —the convergence of incommensurable language games in a world increasingly connected and interdependent, a world in which discourses slide across each other like Saussure’s signifiers, revea ling the complexity and messiness of being an effective composer, citizen, and intellectual. Posthumanity exposes the constructedness of all discourse, espec ially that composing humanism. As Foucault writes, “[p]osthumanism expos es the secret behind the grand narratives of humanism, the ‘secret that they have no essence or that their


22 essence was fabricated in a piecemeal fashion from alien forms’” (“Nietzsche” 142). As another form of constructedness, posthuman ism thus constitutes both a challenge to and an extension of the humanist proje ct—an extension which opens up the term human to include the very concepts and notions once considerd to be in opposition to it, such as machin es. In How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernet ics, Literature, and Informatics, Katherine Hayles notes that the idea of a more incl usive definition of “human” is not new. She notes that a controversial test proposed by Alan Turing in his 1950 paper "Computer Machinery a nd Intelligence," lays bare the anxiety about the openness of the human. In thi s test, the subject sits in a room with two computer terminals and uses them to c ommunicate with two entities in order to determine which is the machine and which is the human. In an earlier experiment by Turing, he asked people to in teract with two people via computer terminal and determine which was a man and which was a woman. It was Turing’s thesis, reports Hayles, that “If you c annot tell the intelligent machine from the intelligent human, your failure proves, Tu ring argued, that machines can think” ( How xi ). For Hayles, it is not important whether a person can determine the difference between man, woman, or machine. Rath er, the “important intervention comes much earlier, when the test puts you into a cybernetic circuit that splices your will, desire, and perception into a distributed cognitive system in which represented bodies are joined with enacted bo dies through mutating and flexible machine interfaces” ( How xiv ). The design of the test already shows our


23 posthuman identity by placing us into a network mad e of man, woman, and machine. Identification of who is and who is not a human bei ng has been a common element of work attempting to deal with the crisis in humanism. It is not surprising to find that works of science fiction ar e illustrative examples. Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Ridley Scott’s movie Bladerunner perhaps best exemplifies the anxiety over the lack of difference between the human and the artificial. In this film, the main character is an expert in telling the difference between humans and replicants—robots who are so nearly identical to human beings that most c annot distinguish one from the other. The Turing test attempts to ascertain how pr epared we are for an age in which technology has called into question who and w hat qualifies for the label of “human.” Hayles argues that such an age is already upon us. Hayles explains that a later test, one designed originally by Hans Moravec and carried out by Turing, was “designed to show that machines can bec ome the repository of human consciousness—that machines can, for all prac tical purposes, become human beings.” Hayles announces, “you are the cybo rg, and the cyborg is you” ( How xii ). The narrowing difference between human and machi ne is at once exciting and threatening; whether one identifies wi th humanism or posthumanism determines how one responds to living in the “polym orphous, information system” that Haraway calls the “informatics of domination” (77). Much of the scholarship on posthumanism deemphasize s the traditional focus on meaning that is at the center of humanism, and instead looks at social


24 life as an assemblage of machines both human and in human. Perhaps best known for their collaborative work on capitalism, G illes Deleuze and Felix Guattari argue, it is accurate to think of ourselve s, literally, as machines. In their work Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari explore how we are neither organisms (unified wholes with a stable identity and knowable purpose) nor mechanisms (mechanical objects with a prescribed functionality ), but “desiring machines” focused on production rather than representation (5 ). Claire Colebrook, in support of her examination of Deleuze, explains tha t seeing ourselves as machines denies us the solipsism of the Romantic no tion of identity: . [b]ecause a machine has no subjectivity or or ganising center, it is nothing more than the connections and productions i t makes; it is what it does. It therefore has no home or ground; it is a c onstant process of deterritorialization, or becoming other than itself (55–56) Nodular subjectivity is machine subjectivity, an id entity formed through relation and connectivity rather than in isolation. “Pluggin g in” is the prototypical move of cyborg subjects, not interpretation or representati on; “every machine is a machine connected to another machine” (Deleuze and Guattari 6). The challenge of posthumanism to teachers and administrators is t o develop programs that enable students to become critically literate in th e technologies that compose posthumanism. These technologies are not simply the digital tools that we plug into the wall. These technologies are the modes of being, ways of thinking, the soft and hard skills of contemporary communication, and the ability to adapt and


25 develop skill sets appropriate to emergent technolo gies, modes of being, and ways of thinking. Community Redux “There is no end to the net. Every destination is a point of departure and every point of departure is a destination. Appa rent terminals are actually relays in a circuit that is forever in motion.” Mark C. Taylor and Esa Saarinen, Imagologies “Net” 12) Theorists of posthumanism often point to the intern et as the realization of networked community. The internet offers seemingly infinite connectivity, allowing like-minded individuals to congregate desp ite physical boundaries. And much of the software native to the internet—hyperte xt, blogs, and wikis, for instance–is naturally interactive and/or collaborat ive. The latest application of socalled “web 2.0” technologies which depend upon use r-supplied content, as well as the emergence of new forms of intellectual prope rty licensing, have heralded a new age of interactive communication and digital in terdependence. These are the same technologies that have led to announcing “ you” as the Time magazine person of the year. In the academy, such changes ha ve led to a closer interrogation of the visual aspects of communicatio n, greater focus on multimodal genres, and an orientation to producing documents f or public consumption. But the exact shape that online communities will take, and how these communities will overlap with, supplement, or replace face-to-f ace communities is still unclear. What is most important to note, however, is that th ese communities are just one


26 instance of what posthumanists have predicted: comm unities built, not around racial or ethnic ties, but around shared interest a nd affiliation. Giorgio Agamben, perhaps best known for his work on biopolitics, explains in The Coming Community that it is possible for human community to exist without humanism. Part of Agamben’s project is to d evelop an ethics for human beings that rejects the idea of the individual as a n example of an essential humanity. As he writes, the point of any departure for any discourse on [po sthuman] ethics is that there is no essence, no historical or spiritual voc ation, no biological destiny that humans must enact or realize. This is the only reason why something like an ethics can exist, because it is c lear that if humans were or had to be this or that substance, this or that d estiny, no ethical experience would be possible—there would only be ta sks to be done. (43) Posthuman community must emerge without the comfort of moral certainty to guide it. Ethics must emerge when there is no code to which all participants proscribe, no authority which all recognize. It is “because of this things become complicated; precisely because of this ethics becom es effective” (43). Posthumanism in Agamben’s view is thus a more ethic al worldview because it demands ethics for humans to live together. Such a community is classless, for technology has created “a single planetary petty bo urgeoisie, in which all the old social classes are dissolved: The petty bourgeoisie has inherited the world and is the form in which humanity has survived nihilism” ( 63). It is not coincidental that the internet is the building site of such community as it reproduces exactly, with


27 its openness, what Terry Eagleton calls the "bourge oisie's dream of freedom": "a society of petty producers whose endlessly availabl e, utterly inexhaustible commodity is discourse itself" (16–17). Cyborgs dre am this dream well since, in Haraway’s words: “[w]riting is pre-eminently the te chnology of cyborgs” (81). Rather than individuals identifying themselves as m embers of a class— human—that assumes the pre-existence of a natural s et of qualities, Agamben calls upon humans to be “whatever beings” who are “ expropriated of all identity, so as to appropriate belonging itself” (10). It is a belief that this process of expropriation frees individuals from the “false dil emma that obliges knowledge to choose between the ineffability of the individual a nd the intelligibility of the universal” (1). Agamben writes, “The coming being i s whatever being.” Because whatever being is never a stable identity, the one who speaks and acts . is always a multiplicity. Even within the per son who speaks and acts. All of us are ‘groupuscules.’ Representation no lon ger exists; there’s only action—theoretical action and practical action whic h serve as relays and form networks. (Foucault and Deleuze 206–207) Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, in their neo-Marxi st Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, take this notion of multiplicity and develop their own concept of the “multitude” throughout the text. “Multitude” is their way of identifying the possibility of a cohesive proletari at that is neither caught in postmodern fragmentation nor unified under a single human banner. Rather, it carries a sort of subjectivity that comes forth fro m commonality.


28 This figure of plural democracy, which refuses to d iscount the material specificity of its constituent singularities, is a perfect analog for posthuman beings. Hardt and Negri suggest that the multitude is a coalition always being assembled and reassembled, “creating the social rel ations and institutions of a new society” (348). By engaging individuals in the biopolitics of the “cooperative and communicative networks of social labor,” it “co nstantly creates a new social being, a new human nature.” This new social being i s not merely virtual, since the . conditions of the production and reproduction of the social life of the multitude, from its most general and abstract aspec ts to the most concrete and subtle, are developed within the continuous enc ounters, communications, and concatenations of bodies. (Hard t and Negri 348) The posthuman is too often associated merely with t he virtual digital horizons of cyberspace first made popular by William Gibson’s g ritty vision of cyberpunk chic in his 1984 novel Neuromancer Hardt and Negri remind us that bodies, (which cyberpunk texts often refer derisively to as “meat” ), are an integral part of the posthuman circuit. We are not leaving them behind; we are acknowledging their potential as one of many nodes in the circuit of hu manity. Chapter Overview Chapter 2 looks to the centrality of the body as a site of theorizing the posthuman, and examines how this centrality restric ts posthumanism from advocating a progressive narrative of humanity and technology. It looks at


29 technologies of the self as markers of a posthuman relation to the body in which material and immaterial prostheses contribute to a networked subjectivity. For instance, it looks to the representation of bodies in video texts distributed as parts of business communication pedagogies as examp les of our uneasiness with the posthuman. These examples provide models o f the bodyÂ’s role in a form of self-composing and gendered politics. Chapter 3 analyzes the pedagogical assumptions that inform modern pedagogy, considering the status of knowledge, expe rience, and technology in the posthumanist classroom. The expansion of online learning and the offering of classes using electronic communication tools such a s blogs, wikis, and online audio and video, and even 3-D online spaces such as the Second Life online environment expand our notion of both the classroom and the traditional disciplinary formations of the academy. Specificall y, this chapter looks at the educational potential of video games and the role t hat social networks may already play in the teaching of writing in our post human world. Looking primarily at the games KingÂ’s Quest and Eve rquest, this chapter maintains that modern video games provide situation s in which being a successful gamer entails doing technical writing as a member of a gaming community. These communities provide a good example of how individuals inhabit the networked cognition attendant to posthu manism. Current theorists of video games in the field of education seem unaware of the vast scholarship in rhetoric and composition on the central role that c ommunities play in the circulation of discourse and the maintenance of sta ndards for that discourse.


30 Writing teachers, as long-time theorists of the soc ial nature of discourse and the role of media in subjectivity, are well-positioned to take advantage of the educational potential of video games, and to explai n the posthuman basis for their efficacy. Chapter 4 expands upon the previous chapterÂ’s recog nition of the education happening beyond the classroom to look at the institutional embrace of service learning. It considers the expansion of ser vice learning as a materialization of the universityÂ’s networking with the community, but also questions the economic forces which limit the types of connections being made and the effect of such partnerships on the traditio nal goals of liberal education. Universities have embraced service as a way to crea te and distribute knowledge about the academy and its inhabitants in order to b uild market share. But rarely do educators acknowledge how the experience of serv ice learning mimics and prepares for students for working in the distribute d work environments enacted in posthuman workplaces. In the worst cases, service learning unintentionall y legitimizes the authority of market-savvy institutions by providing them a way to signify their commitment to the public good while allowing them t o avoid producing significant changes in the communities they serve. By looking a t the conditions that have made service learning approaches more viable than o ther pedagogies in todayÂ’s academic climate, this chapter draws attention to h ow the institutional embrace of service learning in a knowledge economy is based, n ot just on humanistic justifications, but on posthumanistic ones as well.


31 Chapter 5 concludes by suggesting some ways in whic h universities may address the posthuman without simply denying the co ntinuing influence of their humanistic legacies, economic pressures, students’ desires, and technologyfixated policies. It looks to politics as the most necessary application of posthumanism, identifying insights about identity, community, and humanity that are inseparable form the desire for democratic gove rnance, and to the relationship between the one and the many that unde rlies all posthumanist attempts to expand these categories. It questions t he viability of virtual communities as critical habitats for posthumans, an d suggests that the internet and other networking technologies are just as likel y to be settled by those seeking to construct disengaged enclaves as they ar e to be appropriated by those seeking new forms of connection and distribut ion. The posthuman encompasses the full range of human discourse, and thus we should not be surprised when a posthuman education does not work the way we intend it to. Now, it is to bodies that I now turn in Chapter 2, to the original locus of posthumanist thought and its greatest challenge and resource. The body in posthumanism must be incredibly elastic, belonging not only to the individual but to the multitude, embodying not only one identity, but many, and serving not only as the interface with the physical world, but as th e circuit through which the world interfaces with the individual. It can be the “meat ” that must be transcended, or the fleshy palette which makes cybernetic enhanceme nt possible in the first place. It provides access to an array of rhetorics based on visual, oral, textual, and haptic (tactile) systems of meaning. It is, in short, the embodiment of all the


32 contradictions which make us simultaneously both hu man and posthuman. All the while, the subject must resist the bodyÂ’s seduc tive offer of empirical solipsism and narcissistic privacy. Posthumans need not leave their bodies behind to escape humanism, but they do need to recognize it f or the technology that it is.


33 Chapter 2 Posthuman Bodies “To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask q uestions, to respond, to agree, and so forth. One participates i n this dialogue with his whole life; with his eyes, lips, hands, so ul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds.” Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, “Towards a Reworkin g of the Dostoevsky Book” The body, regarded as our primary interface with th e material world and our enduring filter for physical experience, is the privileged site of humanism. For humanists, it is the housing of the senses, which i s considered crucial to experience and thus to development. A notion of in dividual development entails the recognition that individual identity is subject to change. The humanist conception of such change is cast in terms of self actualization. Clearly, the notion of self actualization challenges the mind/bo dy binary of the Cartesian “cogito ergo sum.” Nevertheless, the humanist self of an integrated mind and body remains a singular embodiment of subjectivity. The humanist self is a self-enclosed one where the mind resides within the body and where the body is, in a sense, free from t hose element s outside of it. This conceptualization of the humanist self, of the body as a singular entity, may serve to limit posthuman thought. In reality, the body is affected by any number of outside networks.


34 The self is a configuration of information patterns we are just now able to see as something that doesn’t really belong to us. Medical researchers, for instance, have identified a host of organisms that reside within the human body, organisms that depend on us for survival and upon w hich we depend to survive as well. It’s hard to follow a strict humanism when one learns that our bodies, whose fingerprints and other physical features are commonly used to establish identify, do not belong to us alone. According to Michel Foucault, the fact that our bod ies are the home of identity and dis-identity does not mean they can se rve as the basis for any intellectual project, humanist or posthumanist. He writes, The body is molded by a great many distinct regimes ; it is broken down by the rhythms of work, rest, and holidays; it is pois oned by food or values, through eating habits or moral laws; it constructs resistances. . Nothing in man—not even his body—is sufficiently stable to serve as the basis of self-recognition or for understanding other men. (“ Nietzsche” 153) The body, according to Foucault, cannot be consider ed a vehicle by which an individual might break free of regimes if the promi se of this freedom is based upon some inherent internal stability. But as the p hysical site of all of these regimes of truth, however, the body can at least be considered useful for the project of understanding how such regimes operate. These circuits of power and knowledge are traced upon our flesh. The focus on the body as a singular entity, even on e overrun by social networks and cultural signification, may limit post human thought. Even when


35 posthuman theorists praise the machinic assemblages that attempt to break from the mold of autonomous selfhood, the most important component in the system is the human. It is the privledged human component that unifies the entire system. The human might now be much better understo od as an integrated cyborg, but it is still the cyborg’s humanity that is of the most interest. The emphasis on the human in the posthuman sheds ne w light on the title of the opening chapter, “Ecce Post-Homo.” “Ecce Hom o” are the Latin words in the Vulgate translation of the Gospel of John spoke n when Pontius Pilate presents Jesus to a crowd right before his crucifix ion. The phrase is most commonly translated as “behold the man.” Friedrich Nietzsche borrows this phrase for his autobiography written late in his li fe, and adds the subtitle “How One Becomes What One Is.” This subtitle highlights the circularity of being—the always-alreadiness of our post-humanity. Wherever o ne looks for the human, one must also behold the post-human. In this chapter, I will examine the circulation an d representation of various bodies in pedagogical and public texts as a way of making visible the traces of our humanism and posthumanism, and of our attitudes toward the material and the virtual. I am concerned throughout with the man y ways in which the body is implicated in education. Of Patterns and Presence It is hard to imagine our bodies not being present. In “Can Thought Go On Without a Body?”, Lyotard concludes that “thought a nd the body [are]


36 inseparable” in that “each of them is analogous to the other in its relationship with its respective (sensible, symbolic) environment: th e relationship being analogical in both cases” (135). This analogical relationship means that thinking machines that work from a binary logic simply cannot reprodu ce human thought, which is why Lyotard calls upon engineers to “take the body as model in the manufacture and programming of artificial intelligence.” Some p osthumanists have associated this analogical capacity with the dialectic of patt ern/randomness, a dialectic that recognizes the various ways that humans make sense of the chaos of experience. Hayles argues in How We Became Posthuman that posthumanism eschews the binary of presence/absence in favor of a dialectic of pattern/randomness because, . meaning is not front-loaded into the system, and the origin does not act to ground signification . . Rather than pro ceeding along a trajectory toward a known end, systems evolve toward an open f uture marked by contingency and unpredictability. ( How 285) Posthumans are willing to live with uncertainty, wi th bodies and identities that cannot be depended upon to be stable. Living in a p osthuman age means that we must process and produce information, despite ou r realization of instability. To negotiate information and to interact with the w orld, both pattern and randomness are important. Hayles agues that in the age of postmodernism, both pattern and randomness are “complements or suppleme nts to one another. Each helps to define the other; each contributes to the flow of information


37 through the system” (“Virtual” 152). As such, each component of the dialectic is vital in the construction of identity and the creat ion of meaning. It is important to remember that this shift to a d ialectic of pattern/randomness is a shift away from a binary of presence/absence. Consider the teaching of writing. Traditionally, the value o f writing and speech is understood through the presence/absence binary. As in any binary, one term is always favored, and in this case, it is “presence,” which is most commonly associated with the availability of the body to the senses, unmediated by technology. Such a binary asks us to accept that th e presence of a speaker ensures that the speech is unmediated. Since the s peaker is not present, writing is secondary to speech. Thus, it is not uncommon f or scholars doing historical research to find that audience members believed tha t the written text offered only an imperfect copy of the text as presented orally. When students are tutored to detect within texts the presence of a strong thesis of authorial voice and intention, of rhythmic and vivid language–all eleme nts that supposedly make the text effective, one must acknowledge the degree to which these ideals are connected to our paradigm of communication as oral performance, a performance in which the body is present to the aud ience. Once the ideological roots of such an attitude towa rds speech and writing were recognized, we were able to consider the degre e to which such descriptions were guided. Not guided by any deficiency in the s peech’s transcription, these attitudes were guided by the commonplace notion, as Leah Marcus explains, that “writing was not authoritative in itself, but only insofar as it served as a record of


38 speech, with the oral prototypon evanescent though it was, retaining primary authority” (46). Such attitudes attempt to place sp eech into a direct relationship with meaning because the body is the representation of identity. Thus, the favoring of the presence offered by speech is linke d to the favor placed upon the body by humanistic thought. Metaphysics and the Masculine (and the Feminine) Of course, just as speech is favored over writing, so too is masculinity favored over femininity—each a privileged component of its binary set and each associated with authority, presence, and authentici ty. Instruction in the development of voice attempts to guarantee that wri ting, which is seen as a trace of the absence of the speaker, maintains some of th e authority attached to the originary speech. Writing, as Gayatri Spivak notes, “presents itself as the mark of an anterior presence, origin, master” (“Preface” xv ). In many ways, such an attitude is traceable back to Plato’s theory of mim esis, which held that writing was a copy of speech, which itself was a copy of th ought, where thought was considered a imperfect version of the concept in th e metaphysical realm of ideas. Whereas Plato’s theory treated ideas as more real t han the bodies that voiced them, more modern versions of this bias look to the body as the origin of authenticity. The privileging of the spoken word over the written word is so strong that Jacques Derrida has argued that a “metaphysics of p resence” exists which assumes the “absolute proximity of voice and being, of voice and the meaning of


39 being, of voice and the ideality of being” ( Grammatology 11–12). And many other “metaphysico-theological roots” cling to this binar y arrangement (13). The primacy of logos —historically, the word of God—in modern discourse is just one way in which the favoring of presence reinforces ot her discourses of authority In other words, the association of speech/text with pr esence/absence has farreaching implications for culture in general, espec ially when the presence/absence binary is interrogated in relation to other binaries, such as man/woman. The posthumanist attempt to focus on pat tern/randomness as its structuring dialectic represents a recognition that different modes of being are only available if existing loci of power are challe nged. The resilience of the presence/absence binary in di scourses of authority is not uninterested, especially since presence has his torically been associated with masculinity and absence has been associated with fe mininity. The influence of the metaphysics of presence, especially on those in dominant positions in social hierarchies, helps to account not only for claims o f the superiority of an original oral performance over the printed record, helps to explain how such a commitment shapes social relations among men and wo men, relations invested with cultural meanings and mediated by oral utteran ces, bodily performances, and printed texts. In a society under the influence of the metaphysics of presence, women are often denied practice of authorized speech—spee ch to which presence is assigned. The source of authorized speech is often connected to the material public body—for example, a speaker in the public sp here who is granted the


40 privilege of the assumption of presence. Thus, the speech of women that circulates in the private sphere (“private” being i n a binary relation to the assumed “public” field of male speech) is generally excluded from the maledominated economy of presence. Classical rhetorical training in oral performance p rovided strong support for the masculine identity project and the transmis sion of patriarchal values associated with the metaphysics of presence. As And rew Williams writes of modernism, “The construction of a masculine identit y is, in part, derived from the cultural importance a society attaches to the publi c behavior of its male members” (96). By mastering the “graceful command o f social intercourse,” Williams writes, men are able to develop a sense of “autonomous selfhood” (97, 96). Frances Yates provides a genealogy of the use of the body as an aid in public speech, the effective delivery of which ofte n depended upon one’s memory. She writes that the “most universally known of all memory textbooks,” Peter of Ravenna’s 1491 Phoenix, sive artificiosa memoria popularized the “classical principle that memory images should if p ossible resemble people we know” (Yates 113). This and other practices treated the body as a resource for developing the memory techniques considered necessa ry for oral performance. But these bodies, in order to be useful, needed to be associated with specific identities (“people we know”). Thus, even when the body was used as a technology, its usefulness was still predicated upo n its close association with identity.


41 Men relied on this sense of selfhood available to t hem through public discourse to situate themselves within a history of privileged well spoken men and to embody, as Quintilian portrayed in his Institutio Oratorio the performative ideal of the vir bonus dicendi peritus —the “good man speaking well.” Under such conditions, speech is the valued mode of interactio n with others, and is a nontrivial contribution to the maintenance of patriarc hal values. In her work in examining the body as a site of power, Lynn Enterli ne claims that educational institutions participate in the maintenance of thes e values, and reinforce the association between speaking ability and subjectivi ty by drilling students in the “art of imitating other voices” as part of an undis closed mission to produce “properly masculine subjects” (165). Thus, identity is produced through the disciplining of the body. Even though students in these schools did engage wi th the work of classical poets in textual (rather than oral) form and often produced translations and other written products, it is important to reme mber, Martin Elsky writes, that although “Learned Latin had been separated from its oral base for centuries, it remained aligned with the classical rhetorical trad ition, which conceived of language as oratory . the tradition persisted l ong after oratory shifted from oral to written performance” (114). Other scholars have supported Enterline’s claim that such pedagogies embrace the practice of imitat ion where by students learn self-discipline through identifying themselves with a dominant model (Enterline 166). For instance, in The Poetics of Primitive Accumulation: English Renaissance Culture and the Geneaology of Capital Richard Halpern has


42 criticized pedagogies of identification from an Alt husserian perspective as being one way in which male subjects became interpellated into patriarchal values. Gayatri Spivak even claims that such approaches ins till a “desire to have a self” that can be made publicly known, which she calls a form of “masculinist centralism” (“Explanation” 204). The degree to which writing pedagogies that fail to question the economy of presence contribute to the conservative maintena nce of social relations through identification is connected to the “great e nergy in saying over and over again what has been learned” that imitative pedagog ies ask students to expend (Ong 41). The “ formative power” of these pedagogies is in their commitment to a crude humanism which isolates the body of the speak er as the origin of the power of the communicative act (Enterline 25). As D errida writes, “absolute presence is constituted as self-presence, as subjec tivity,” a subjectivity that embraces the “absolute will to hear-oneself-speak” ( Grammatology 16; Speech 102). Posthumanist educators interested in avoiding the p edagogical reinscription of the metaphysics of presence might draw upon the scholarship of Cheryl Glenn. As part of her project to reclaim the “rhetorical accomplishment of historical women,” Glenn urges scholars to expand t he study of “delivery (speaking and writing) to include the delivery of s ilence” (262). She admits that a “rhetoric of silence might seem peculiar, given the Western tendency to overvalue speech and speaking out,” but she challen ges scholars to trace that which is usually considered trace-less, and to purs ue the possibility of a


43 “specifically feminist rhetorical art” structured o n productive absence (Glenn 263, 262). The productivity of absence might be translat ed to the productivity of nonconnection from networks, providing some balance to the excesses of technoutopian posthumanism. Admittedly, developing a metaphysics of absence cou ld result in simply inverting the hierarchical relationship between spe ech and writing (without necessarily displacing the humanist glorification o f the body as the distillery of identity). Such an inversion is not inevitable beca use to study oral traditions is already to study the complex interplay of writing and speec h, what Derrida calls a “plenitude enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of presence” ( Grammatology 144). If technology were to deliver this plenitude without entering into the hierarchy of meaning created by humanism, posthumanists would have little to say. But the danger with today’s technological immediacy is that we feel that we have direct access to the speech because it is d elivered in ways that seem less mediated, less separate from the body than pas t technologies. Unfortunately in this ideology, the more we ignore the material e mbodied context, the more accurate we believe the representation to be. It is tempting to believe that technologies such as online chat and video conferen cing provide a more authentic medium for the communication of identity. We often forget that the interfaces through which w e communicate are laden with political messages and agendas of their own. It is, perhaps, the seamlessness of the mediums that make them so diffi cult to identify and


44 examine. An individual needs to look no further th an the tiny advertisement in the corner of their computer screen to realize that their chat with a friend isn’t as pure as it first appears. However, when communicati on is synchronous, when information is immediate, it seems authentic. The immediacy of technologies such as teleconferenc ing, voice over internet protocol applications, and synchronous cha t provide a false sense of authenticity. As a result, the technologized subje ct of posthumanism reinscribes presence as the privledged term in its binary. Pre sence continues to be a defining measure of the efficacy of human communica tion, and the body its primary source. Gender Machines “A starting point may be . to propose that gend er, too, as both representation and as self-representation, is the product of various social technologies, such as cinema, and of instit utionalized discourses, epistemologies, and critical practices as well as practices of daily life.” Teresa de Lauretis, “The Technology of Gender” Gender is a machine hardwired into the body and net worked into the circuits of discourse and technology. As de Laureti s suggests above, we are already plugged in to a number of technologies and discourses, all of which contribute to our understanding of ourselves as gen dered subjects. As Anne Balsamo writes, gender is a “determining cultural c ondition and a social consequence of technological deployment” (9).The ge ndered body poses a special problem for posthumanists, especially those who are feminists as well. If


45 we have become posthuman, must we also have become postgender? Does the move to posthumanism mean the rejection of feminism ’s valuation of the lived experience of men and women? Presumably, Lyotard would say no, since he claims t hat the analogizing power mentioned above is “inconsequential compared to an irreparable transcendence inscribed on the body by gender diffe rence. . This difference makes thought go on endlessly and won’t allow itsel f to be thought. . this difference causes infinite thought” (“Can” 140). Fo r Lyotard, posthumanist (or any) thought cannot exist without gender, which is a necessary part of our embodied apparatus for thinking in the world. Perhaps gender is, then, the condition to which can be traced what Lyotard identifies as our fascination with othernes s and difference. Gender difference is not innocent, however. Unfortunately, the “abstract concept of gender ‘difference’ is reified as discrete gender i dentities” (Balsamo 159). In other words, difference may make thought possible, but it also makes possible the rigid binary system of gender (as well as race and other forms of bodily difference) that suggests that men and women are na turally and essentially different, opening the door to the inscription of w hat Edward Said calls “ideologies of difference” upon the body of the oth er (41). Many feminists, including Rosi Braidotti, Elspeth P robyn, Elizabeth Grosz, Linda Singer, Moria Gatens, Anne Balsamo, Susan Bor do, Alison Jaggar, Kathy Davis, and Judith Butler, have tried to reconceptua lize the body within feminism. Elizabeth Grosz’s “corporeal feminism,” for example attempts to provide an


46 understanding of gendered bodies that is “compatibl e with feminist struggles to undermine patriarchal structures and to form self-d efined terms and representations” (“Notes” 3). Rosi Braidotti’s defi nition of the “feminist subject of knowledge” as “rhizomatic, embodied, and, therefore perfectly artificial; as an artifact it is machinic, complex, endowed with mult iple capacities for interconnectedness in the impersonal mode” directly appeals to the posthumanistic thinking of Deleuze in its invocatio n of rhizomatic machinic being (162). While not accepted by all feminists, some of whom feel that the focus on the body is retrogressive, their questions about ge nder promise to further understanding about posthumanism. In Volatile Bodies Grosz asks: “do bodies, all bodies (even nonhuman bodies, it must be presumed), have a specifically s exual dimension (whether it be male or female or hermaphroditic) which is psychica lly or culturally inscribed according to its morphology?” (189). Grosz’s questi on points here to the now widely accepted distinction between sex and gender (between bodily forms—of which there are many more than two—and the cultural ly constructed norms associated with those forms). The portability of ge nder, even to the inhuman, seemingly sanctions the flexibility of posthuman id entity, turning gender into just one more prosthetic, into one more machine that can be plugged into or left on the workshop floor. But this should also give pause to those who think that gendered technologies will somehow mean the end of restrictive expectations for gendered bodies. As Balsamo has shown in her discus sions of cosmetic surgery, female body building, cyberpunk fiction, and virtua l avatars, the “meaningfulness


47 of gender identity is reproduced in the application of new technologies” to the body (160). A series of ads circulated by Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU, a joint venture between Microsoft and Macintosh com puters) is representative of the reproduction of gender identity through technol ogy. When these ads ran, MacBU had already drawn the ire of many women when it announced that it was searching for the most "nimble, determined, Mac-wie lding businesswoman around" in order, in beauty-pageant style, to crown her “Ms. M.o.X.i.e.” ("M.o.X.i.e." stands for "Microsoft Office v. X Int egrated Experience") (Dalrymple, “Searches”). Although the company viewed this promotion as a pro gressive recognition of women's strong presence in the business world, c ritics were quick to point out its conservative character. Within twenty-four hour s of the Ms. Moxie contest being announced on MacCentral an official online news service for Mac users, the online comments forum attached to the article w as filled with over 150 messages that predominantly condemned the contest, beginning with a message titled "When Equality Is Insulting" and ending with a message titled "Re: Most Insulting Contest Ever" (morphing along the way int o "When Men are Insulting" and "M$ now seXist") (Dalrymple, “Searches”). Inter estingly, a recurring concern of the respondents was the conflation of success in business with technological aptitude. At the same time women were being invited to identi fy with Mac products, the Macintosh computer, the Apple, was being identi fied as woman. The "Ms.


48 M.o.X.i.e" contest was announced in the same month that the MacBU ran a series of ads promoting the interoperability of Mic rosoft software on Macintosh hardware, lauded as showing "Macs and PCs sharing a meaningful friendship" (Dalrymple, "Launches"). Each ad showed a PC and a Mac computer engaging in some anthropomorphic activity such as playing ch ess by the pool, or watching a movie while eating Chinese food (the most recent series of televised Mac ads takes this analogy to its logical extreme, totally replacing the computers with human beings named “Mac” and “PC”). The text at the bottom of both print ads read: Macs and PCs have never been so compatible. Microso ft Office v. X. makes Macs and PCs more friendly. It lets Mac users effortlessly open, share, edit, and save any Office files to make work ing with PCs a breeze. Complete with easy-to-use exclusive Mac tools that simplify complex tasks. And it's built specifically for Mac OS X, so it's the most reliable, stable, easy-going Office ever. GO=> www.officeform to download a free 30-day trial of Office v. X. today. These ads were generally well-received (at the leas t, they were better received than the Ms. M.o.X.i.e. contest), but gendered iden tity was still being reproduced. It is arguable that the visual presentation—the rel ative sizes of the PC and the Mac computers (the PC was larger), the domestic set tings (poolside and in a family room watching TV, in two of the ads), and wo rds like "compatibility" and "checkmate"—constituted a subtle gendering of the c omputers in the ads, suggesting specifically that Macs are female and PC s are male. There are other


49 gender markers specific to the individual ads. For instance, in the ad titled "Take Out Anyone?", the TV remote is positioned in front of the PC while a plate of untouched food sits in front of the Mac, matching t he popular cultural conventions of men as inveterate channel-surfers and women as n eeding to have an aloof relationship to food. Whether the PC has eaten yet is unclear, but he has no plate and will seemingly eat straight from the box of Chinese food which sits in front of him, another culturally male convention. If we accept that these two computers are gendered in this way, then it becomes significant that the ads suggest that the complex" Microsoft Office software is being made accessible to the Mac. In ot her words, accommodations are being made for the female so that "working with PCs is a breeze." Microsoft, as the monolithic, monopolizing, industry-dominatin g behemoth that it is, easily fills the role of domineering male presence, which the ad promises will be (in a newspaper’s Personals-section type of way) a "relia ble, stable, easygoing" companion. The presumption is that women are less t echnologically adept than men and need assistance to bring them up to the fun ctional level as men. The gendered machines of the MacBU ads suggest that “[s ]exual differences are both the input and output of the technological productio n of gendered bodies”—even if these bodies are personal computers (Balsamo 158). Woman Incorporated The end of World War II saw many women returning fr om the factory to the kitchen, giving up jobs to men returning from m ilitary service overseas. Since


50 that time, women have found ways to increasingly le ave the "private" sphere of domestic labor and enter the "public" sphere of bus iness (though this distinction is not entirely accurate; women who enter business often do so in addition to their domestic duties). Numerous responses (includi ng the questionable MacBU promotions described above) have emerged such as sc holarships, associations, study programs, and awards, alternately promoting a nd welcoming women into business fields. In more popular media such as film and television, women have ceased to be depicted solely as mothers, housewives and possible mates, and have been given professional identities as well. As Balsamo points out, pregnant women become a biol ogical and eroticized spectacle in which the “womb serves as a metonym for the entire family body,” a move that endorses the use of repro ductive technologies as “means for exercising power relations on the flesh of the female body” (80, 82). Representations of pregnant women “signify female g ender in a way that reinforces an essentialist identity for the female body as the maternal body” (9). In significant ways, the professionalization of wom en in cultural narratives, like the working body of Rosie the Riveter, helped oppos e reduction of woman to only wife and mother. But even if women today are being welcomed more ful ly to the sphere of business, it is important to interrogate the reprod uction of gender ideologies in this process. Below I would like to consider two vi deo-based texts that educate students in business communication skills. One of t hese texts is a video on how to give effective oral presentations called "Powerf ul Presentation Skills," which is


51 comprised of a series of videotaped lectures accomp anied by bulleted Powerpoint-like graphics. The other is a CD-ROM sup plement called “The Perils of Pauline” packaged with a popular business commun ication textbook. Most schools’ multimedia collections hold videos li ke “Powerful Presentation Skills,” which is a straightforward le cture-style presentation supplemented by video dramatizations about a woman named Carol who is given a business task by her manager that she feels unpre pared for. In the course of her journey to master the art of giving a professio nal business presentation, Carol has help from three coworkers, two men and on e woman. What is significant about the three coworkers is the differ ence between their backgrounds and how they are introduced in the video clips. The two men are a maintenance worker and an intern who arrive on the screen out o f nowhere, with no introduction as to their backgrounds or credentials beyond their job titles (which are not notable). Yet these men are accepted as nat ural authorities (by Carol, and therefore by the viewer) about how to deliver e ffective presentations, dispensing information to Carol freely and confiden tly. The young male intern is working on a degree in gra phic design, so his opinions about presentation slides is somewhat just ified, but when he meets Carol in the copy room as she is making copies of o verhead transparencies, he picks them up from the table uninvited and begins c ritiquing them with phrases like "This is confusing" and "This one's just dumb. Carol immediately asks him to show her how to do the overheads better, never chal lenging the authority of his discourse. It is almost impossible (and this is a s ymptom of the problem) to


52 imagine a female intern walking up and speaking the same way to a male employee about his professional work. When we are introduced to Carol's helpful female co worker (who is not a maintenance worker or intern, but an executive), we see her talking to a group of other professionals. As Carol approaches from the b ackground, we hear all of the female coworker's associates compliment her on her excellent presentation skills (presumably, she has just finished giving a present ation). So, while men can appear on the screen with natural authority for giv ing presentations, viewers must be convinced of a woman's ability to dispense profe ssional advice. It's almost a given she must be well-dressed and educated as well In this video, men seem to be able to transcend their bodies and social positi ons due to their natural authority, while women must be presented to the aud ience in particular ways to establish their credibility. I want to turn now to a CD-ROM titled "The Perils o f Pauline" (TPoP) and published by Prentice Hall in 1999 as a supplement to its popular textbook, Business Communication Today (5th edition, by John Thill and Courtland Bove). In TPoP, the reader interacts with a series of on-screen episodes, each of which begin with an introductory video that esta blishes a problem at the workplace and then asks the reader to complete an e xercise that will determine whether Pauline "succeeds" or "fails" at accomplish ing the task to her boss' and coworkers' satisfaction. The reader is then present ed with a "failure" video or a "success" video based on his or her performance on the exercise. Granted, the most heinous examples of gender stereotyping fall w ithin those videos that


53 appear when Pauline "fails" to accomplish the task, but the entire product is infused with questionable assumptions about gender. The very narrative of a woman entering business uns ure of her abilities and needing help (from the reader) to succeed is in itially suspect (especially since we find out at the beginning of the CD-ROM th at Pauline's sorority voted her "Most Likely to Succeed"; seemingly, this award has little to do with being prepared for the business world she is getting a de gree to enter). It also doesn't help that the woman's name is "Pauline Peterson," w ith both first and last name being derivatives of conventionally male names (Pau l and Peter, respectively), which are themselves closely associated with the pa triarchal hierarchy of Christianity. The namesake of "Perils of Pauline" is actually an early 20th-century "cliffhanger serial" in which the main female chara cter always wound up in a dangerous predicament at the end of the episode, on ly to be saved by the male character at the beginning of the next installment. That the CD-ROM authors are attempting to reconnect with this cultural paradigm of female helplessness suggests a conscious willingness to reproduce the i deologies that informed these films. The picture on the cover of the CD-ROM suppl ement is questionable as well, as it shows Pauline with her hands plastered to her cheeks as she opens her mouth in a wide "O," releasing a perpetual and silent scream at the terror of being asked to fulfill a business task which she pr esumably prepared for in her degree program.


54 While there is little overt discussion of gender in the workplace in "Perils of Pauline," there is ample attention to the notion of difference. In one episode, Pauline, to her audience's disbelief, makes a gross generalization about Japanese workers. In another, she insults two male East Indian software developers with whom she is sent to have lunch in o rder to procure a business deal. Cultural difference has an entire episode ded icated to it entitled "Intercultural Communication." This attention is su rprising considering the many opportunities for the examination of gender relatio ns in the CD-ROM. Over the course of the episodes, Pauline moves from a male to a female boss, has a crush on one of her coworkers, and in h er second job ends up managing a male employee that she was previously ma naged by. One of Pauline's female coworkers does mention "sexual har assment" once, but only as a threat against one of her male coworkers when he makes a snide remark about her losing something because she used it as a bookm ark in one of her romance novels. The other instance where the term "discrimi nation" arises is when Pauline is accused of discrimination against a male coworker whom she has been given the duty of firing, though the basis for the discrimination charge is vague. There are too many examples of gender-inflec ted choices made by the creators of TPoP to cover all of them in depth. I w ill provide a suggestive list below to show how gender identity, though never an explicit focus, colors the entire production: In the introductory video to the entire CD-ROM, we are treated to a "photo album" of Pauline's life, where we see photo s of her fulfilling


55 conventional gender roles by being dressed as a chi ld ballerina and on the arm of a boy going to prom. The voiceover infor ms us that the only thing not "boring" about her high school years was the trouble-making of a boy named Herman Goldblatt, that she went to c ollege where her sorority voted her "Most Likely to Succeed," and fi nally that she is being offered a job at a marketing firm. Pauline's first boss is male and refers to himself jokingly as "god." Sometimes when the CEO's name is mentioned, angelic voices are heard (sometimes instead of saying the CEO's name, an individual gives a meaningful nod and the angelic voices start on cue). There seems to be no purpose for this except to associate the workplace hierarchy with the patriarchal hierarchy of organiz ed religion. We do not see female co-workers working. Instead w e find them watching soap operas and reading romance novels. In fact, every comment from the romance-novel-reading coworker rel ates to a character in her romance novel, who reportedly slee ps with the CEOÂ’s son in order to climb the corporate ladder. As far as the representation of the extracurricular concerns of males goes, Paul ine's boss often refers accidentally to the sports he plays on compa ny time (tennis, golf, bowling, swimming), and one male coworker, Leo, has a fascination with being abducted by space aliens. At first, Leo' s fascination might seem to defy gender stereotyping, since it is not a ctively "male" like the boss's sports activity. But Leo himself is not asso ciated with a macho


56 masculinity. His bow tie and sweater, excessive dra matics, and other signs mark him as homosexual, and therefore not bou nd to represent masculinity. But his fascination with UFOs is not f ruitless like the female coworker's obsession with romance novels. At the end of the CD-ROM, he actually accomplishes his dream and is a bducted by aliens. An elderly female secretary mentions her sister on ce, but only because the sister is married to an East Indian man, and th us might have information valuable to Pauline for her lunch with two East Indian software developers. In other words, the secretary' s sister becomes significant due to her marital status. One featured female client of the firm (who owns a spaghetti sauce business, as opposed to the software business the E ast Indian male clients have) invites Pauline's manager to her home for dinner, though he is kicked out by the woman's mother when she fin ds out he's married. In Pauline's lunch with the East Indian me n, the pretext for the meal is a business exchange. In the case of the spa ghetti sauce episode, the meal is a pretext for a possible marri age. This episode extends to women in the workplace the insulting ste reotype that women in college are “only there for an M.R.S. degr ee—i.e. to find a husband” (Rocker-Gladen). When Pauline is fired from her first job (due to d ownsizing), she sends out rsums that she has carefully constructed. In the "success" video,


57 a fairy godmother appears to remind her to use the Prentice-Hall textbook to help her write her rsum (one of the p ieces of advice the fairy godmother delivers: "make it look beautiful, like me"). At the end of the "success" video for this episode, even after sending out wellwritten rsums, the interview she is granted is on e acquired for her by a male coworker who was also fired. These are just some examples of the gender-inflecte d narratives that permeate this digital pedagogy of TPoP. At a time when what Cynthia Selfe calls the narrative of the “Un-gendered Utopia” has become po pular among educators, in which we are called to “see and understand computer s as educational allies that can support efforts to create new kinds of educatio nal and economic opportunities for students—regardless of gender,” i t is surprising to find such a thoroughly gendered production (“Lest” 306). Perhap s Selfe’s title says it all: “Lest We think the Revolution is a Revolution.” Not only does Pauline exhibit stereotypically femal e behavior, she is also continually framed as incompetent. And since the ep isodes are designed to be watched in any order, this incompetence recurs at t he beginning (and sometimes end) of every episode. And Pauline is continually p ositioned against technology, of which she admits she has an "intense fear." In o ne video reminiscent of a cheesy horror flick, a copier even grows monstrous arms and reaches out to grab her when she tries to make copies. In another video episode, the male voiceover, presented by a Rod Serling wanna-be from the "Technology Zone" describes Pauline as an outsider in the world of te chnology who is "young, eager,


58 but technologically ‘tacky.’” He even wonders wheth er the task of mastering technology will lead to "electronic eradication for our 'Everywoman.'" Thus, Pauline's incompetence becomes a synecdoche for the essential technological incompetence of all women. At a time when women are entering business and othe r technology-laden fields historically reserved for men (and when othe r more traditionally female professions, such as teaching, are increasingly med iated by technology), it is important to understand what texts that introduce w omen to the discourses of these fields convey about their subject positions a s professionals. Posthuman ethics requires that gender identities be fluid pro stheses available for adoption and dismissal, that cyborgs be allowed to enact “co ntradictory, partial, and strategic” identities (Haraway 74–75). The identity offered by this CD-ROM is about as far from the cyborg as possible. TPoP fail s to heed Haraway’s call to dissolve the oppositions between human and animal a nd human and machine, and to imagine a complexly integrated, rather than simply fearful, relation between women and technology. When Pauline is faced with a seemingly insurmountab le task, she reacts in predictable ways. She is unable to speak, often cries, and shuts her eyes. Carol, the protagonist of the video described earli er, “Powerful Presentation Skills,” is also often unable to speak, but her bod ily reaction to stressful situations is often fainting. Ultimately, Pauline’s anxiety ep isodes end with a scream as she succumbs to a daydream in which she solves the prob lem through violence.


59 Silence is a common signifier for female passivity and lack of competence in public speaking, which are often constructed in binary form against male activity and ease in public speaking. As Cheryl Gle nn has shown, the history of public speech is primarily of "vocal, virile, arist ocratic males" (262). The depictions of Carol and Pauline’s reactions to anxi ety in the form of crying and fainting perhaps owe much to Charcot’s clinical per formances of hysteria at the Salptrire, where coached performances of hypnotiz ed women convinced Freud and others of the “radical dissociative trends spli tting the consciousness of hysterics, often in terms of socially commendable a nd socially censurable roles” (Bernheimer 7). The “success” and “failure” videos of the TPoP construct the split consciousness around these commendable and censurab le roles. The split consciousness of Pauline often engages in fantasies of violence. In one such video episode, Pauline has been tasked with writing a business letter to a local bank requesting a loan. Instead of worki ng, she files her nails instead. Conceivably, this could be read as an act of resist ance (in the la perruque tradition of tactical resistance forwarded by Miche l de Certeau) to speaking the language of business, but any notion of resistance is silenced by the voice-over provided by a Dick Tracy-like investigator, the "le tter detective.” After a condescending opener referring to Pauline's nail-fi ling as "important business matters," this voice-over inscribes Pauline's refus al as incompetence rather than resistance, specifically as a failure to listen to advice from men. Pauline, unable to voice her intent in the language of business, instead dreams of getting the loan by holding the loan offi cer at gunpoint. Female


60 violence is here represented as emerging from an in ability to communicate, in a manner I would argue is reminiscent to feminist int erpretations of Freud's theory of hysteria in which the female body becomes the me dium in which women communicate when other access to self-representatio n is denied to them. It is possible to see violence as a symptom of female inc ompetence, but also as the surplus of denied signification. What Hlne Cixous claims of Freud’s hysteric, Dora, may be also true of Pauline: she may be an “e xample of the protesting force of women” (Qtd. in Bernheimer 1). While femal e violence could be considered threatening (especially if emerging out of a coalition with other likeminded individuals), TPoP presents it within a fram e that reassures us that Pauline is alone and calmly filing her nails, not c ommitting the violent act of which she can only daydream. That the advances of feminis m are made safe in TPoP through the presentation of a solitary (hysteric) b ody is a strong argument for the critical importance of the distributed, networked b ody of posthumanism. Materiality in Theory The prominence of the body in posthumanism and the tendency to fall back into stereotypical narratives when representin g the human body in new media texts suggests that theorists must become mor e aware of their relation to the material world. For many, theory is distinguish ed precisely by its abstract nature, by its opposition to the material. But this need not be so, not only in the case of Marxist theorists, but for all scholars. In Constructing Knowledges Sid Dobrin relates the debates over the role of theory in composition studies, debates


61 centered most often on the relationship between the ory and practice. Dobrin notes that the “direct impact” of this debate upon those who study writing comes from our twofold professional responsibility—“to pa rticipate in a practice, our pedagogy; and to produce theory that explains the n ature, function, and operation of written discourse” (6). Thus, Dobrin s uggests that our professional responsibilities as educators include a responsible commitment to material practices. In regards to our responsibility to produce theory, Dobrin, in the tradition of Richard Rorty and Stephen Toulmin, makes a distinct ion between theory with a small t —“an attempt to arrive at accurate explanations of some phenomena” by theorizing in ways that are “not necessarily rigid, didactic, or even stable”—and Theory with a big T —the attempt to produce “universal, generalizable g rand explanations” that attain the status of unassailabl e law (Dobrin 8, 11). Dobrin rightly points out that many, while recognizing pos tmodern critics’ dismissal of the latter type of Theory, fail to recognize the value of theorizing as a process of inquiry that leads to “more useful explanations of phenomena for which past theories could not account” (9). Dobrin’s call for theorizing that produces useful e xplanations is something that posthumanists would definitely agree with. Aft er all, posthumanists recognize that, to engage the complexity of machinic being, q uestions of how are more interesting, and less prone to metaphysical and ide ological explanations than questions of why In fact, Dobrin even defines theory as “the infer ence of how all like things operate based on repeated instances of observation, speculation


62 about those observations, and the construction of a ccurate explanations of what the phenomenon in question is and how it works” (8, emphasis added). Others might legitimately call this process “inductive rea soning,” and point out that much basic science, not just critical theory, happens in this manner. The following passage from Constructing Knowledges however, demonstrates further how ideological explanations can subvert a more respons ible engagement with materiality. Dobrin writes: Theory is often contrasted with law, as in the “law of physics.” . Of course, postmodern theory has put into question eve n the most sacrosanct absolute reliability of laws. For instan ce, a law of physics stipulates that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenhe it; however, the boiling point of water is also dependent upon other variabl es, such as altitude. Context must always be considered. So even physical laws may not operate with the kind of absolute certainty once th ought. (8) Dobrin’s attempt to justify the value of theorizing by displaying its ability to “put into question even the most sacrosanct absolute rel iability of laws” falls short of a posthuman ethics that is responsible to the theoret ical and to the material. The “Of course” that begins the declaration that postmo dern theory has destabilized the foundation of law suggests that this example is not being presented to defend a questionable assertion. The following sentence be ginning with “For instance” would then seem to provide unproblematic proof of p ostmodern theory’s ability to call into question absolute laws. But this example simply does not work historically or materially. For starters, the emerg ence of postmodern theory and


63 the revelation that the boiling temperature of wate r is not universal, but dependent upon several contextual variables, are se parated by at least a century. In the 19th century, the work of scientists such as Dutch phys icist Johannes Diderik Van der Waals and Irish chemist Th omas Andrews showed how boiling points were relative to the pressure of the substance, a phenomena leading to the pragmatic establishment of a standar d pressure at which to define boiling points that could be compared. Even though scientists recognize that air pressure is variable from moment to moment, they ag ree to use what is called “standard pressure” as a representative measure of pressure at which to determine boiling points. Standard pressure is that found at sea level and is quantified as 1 atmosphere [atm] (often converted t o kPa [kilopascals] for use in equations). But even the notion of sea level is mis leading, since references to changes in altitude are really shorthand for change s in air pressure. The mathematical equivalent of the 212 degrees Fahr enheit that Dobrin mentions is 100 degrees Celsius. But technically th e real boiling point of water is not 100 degrees Celsius at all, but 99.97 degrees. The multiple ways in which the boiling point of water is calculated has more to do with expectations about the audience of the texts in which these definitions re st. High school chemistry textbook authors, for instance, recognize that high school students typically cannot measure the difference between 99.97 and 100 degrees Celsius. Even among scientists, the exact temperature of 99.97 is not used. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) makes a distinction between the


64 normal boiling point of water and the standard boiling point of water (“Notation” 1247). The normal boiling point of water is indeed 99.97 d egrees Celsius, which holds true at a standard pressure of 1 atm, which i s equal to 101.325 kPa. But for ease of calculations, IUPAC has recommended since 1 982 that scientists set the standard boiling point of water at 99.61 degrees Ce lsius, which holds true at the standard pressure of 1 bar, which is equal to the n ice round number of 100 kPa. In this case, scientists have agreed to use a stand ardized number to represent the boiling point of water, one that is convenient for calculations rather than one that is beholden to nature. The choice here is a pr agmatic one, not a dogmatic one. My point here is not to fault Dobrin for not knowin g the true boiling point of water, but to show how scientists already, without the aid of postmodern theory, know that descriptions of the boiling point of liqu id are only ever made relevant to a measurement of pressure (which is why all textboo ks make reference to boiling points at standard pressure ), and that they also accept the role of social convention upon scientific measurements, as evidenc ed in the IUPAC standards. When Dobrin says that “[c]ontext must always be con sidered,” he is not impelling scientists to do anything they do not already do (a t least in the context of descriptions of water’s boiling point). If anything Dobrin is ignoring the material contexts of scientific community and inquiry that h ave historically constrained the determination of water’s boiling point. Seemingly, he has ignored this context in order to argue for the value of postmodern theory. Instead, he has displayed the


65 exact type of overreaching that has allowed Frederi ck Crews and others to deflate the insights of postmodern theory. Dobrin has taken something that the scientific comm unity knows is arbitrary and conventional, and suggests it is post modern theory that allows us to see that it is arbitrary and conventional. In other words, Dobrin uses knowledge gained through science (the effect of altitude on a ir pressure and boiling points) to attempt to display the supposed shortcomings of science (its attempt to cast its findings as absolute laws). If theorists rely on th e existence of absolute statements on which to practice their antifoundatio nalism, they may find few legitimate targets. If they insist on attacking not ions that everyday practitioners recognize as being contextual and variable, as Dobr in does when he attacks the inexistent “law of physics” that states that water always boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, then they will appear, at best, naive, and, at worst, phony. These examples show how far theorists really must c ome in addressing the materiality of education. The claims we make fo r our theories and for our pedagogies must be responsible to the material and virtual worlds in which we live. Donna Haraway rightly notes that posthumanist s typically eschew the use of binary formulations such as absolute/relative in or der to justify the importance of their work because they realize that such either/or constructions fail to recognize the complexity of distributed embodiment and virtua l positionality, and restricts the cyborg economy of “partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity” (71). In Posthuman Bodies, theorists Judith Halberstam and and Ira Livingston urge that educators must be prepared to engage posthuman bodi es that are the “causes


66 and effects of postmodern relations of power and pl easure, virtuality and reality, sex and its consequences”; bodies that are at once “a technology, a screen, [and] a projected image” (3). As educators we must be faithful to any number of positions, ethical in our treatment of various comp onents of the human machine, and always aware of the possible cultural and polit ical consequences of the choices we make in the posthuman classroom. Theoretical discourse appropriate and responsive to these discursive/material/virtual bodies is perhaps just beginning to emerge, and with it, a new appreciation for the varied discourses at wor k in the modern university. As Hayles writes in “Interrogating the Posthuman Body, ” the inability to parse both material and discursive approaches is “symptomatic of the divide that continues to separate scientific and technological discipline s on the one hand, which report their findings in the language of naive realism, an d cultural and literary studies on the other, where discursive approaches are the orde r of the day” (755). Posthumanism represents an important opportunity fo r merging these scholarly approaches. To paraphrase Haraway, posthumanism is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of disciplinary boundarie s and for responsibility in their construction (70). The following two chapters look at areas in which academic disciplines have embraced technologies that contain the potential to bridge the mental and physical divides transmitted through cur rent disciplinary formations, and to bridge the perceived gulf between practical and theoretical approaches to education.


67 Chapter 3 Posthuman Classrooms This chapter will consider the writing classroom as a possible point of contact between posthumanism and the academy. Speci fically, it will look at the teaching of technical writing as a promising area i n which to have students question the role of writing in the shaping of iden tity and in the maintenance of networked community. Technical documents promise to help us control the many anxieties associated with posthumanism; they promis e to ease the everyday frustrations of modern life through technology (eve n if these problems are themselves introduced by technology). I am sure, fo r instance, that the SONY corporation spent good money to hire a team of tech nical writers to write the manual that came with my DVD player. I am sure, als o, that my reading the manual should allow me to acquire the necessary ski ll to make my DVD player stop flashing “12:00,” as it has for the past sever al years. But ignoring such instruction is, as Nietzsche might say, all too hum an. While we do often encounter technical documents in the context of home technologies, the teaching of technical writing is most often set in the broader context of electronic literacy in the workplace (Su llivan and Dautermann). In other words, the common assumption is that learning to wr ite technical documents is part of joining corporate culture. Thus, students t end to view technical writing as


68 a practical subject valuable to reaching their prof essional goals. This is related to the significance of the computer in, and the textua l bias of, what is variously called the “information society, knowledge society, or network society” (Tynjala et al 74). But while it may be true, as former secretary of la bor Robert Reich writes, that modern workers “when not conversing with their teammates . sit before computer terminals,” computers have also become cen tral elements of non-work activities such as video gaming (208). The 2006 PS3 game system from Sony was promoted as a “supercomputer for computer enter tainment” that could serve as the hub of a household’s multimedia needs, with about twenty times the computing power of the typical PC (Hermida). Increa singly, games are not restricted to the realm of leisure. At Dartmouth co llege, the installation of a campus-wide wireless network not only allows studen ts to stay in constant communication, but allows teachers to integrate gam e show-type exercises into their courses which students participate in using t heir laptops. The U.S. military and many corporations now use games to train their employees cheaply and effectively, and to identify and attract potential employees. Despite the message sent by a number of reports fro m the National Commission on Writing showing that writing ability is a critical capacity for members of the academy, the workplace, and the gove rnment, technical writers get little respect in the modern world. In Writing a Professional Life a collection of narratives written by working technical writers, we find that they are sometimes called “glorified typists” and managers and coworke rs glibly dispense comments


69 such as “You can write standards, but no one is goi ng to use them,” and “Don’t worry about it . Nobody reads manuals anyway” ( Potts 24; Lee 46; Jong 124). Or technical writers are flatly told that “[d]ocume ntation is a formality. Users don't read the documentation” (Staley 105). My own experi ences as a technical writer aren’t much different. On many occasions, colleague s were politely dismissive towards my work, and in some cases, they were quite mean about the uselessness of my field. Some years back, I did so me grant writing for a mental health research institute. I worked next door to a very nice man whose job it was to collect statistics about suicides in the United States; even he told me that he thought my job wasn’t very pleasant and certainly n ot very useful. Popular culture isn’t kind to technical writers eit her. Tina the technical writer from the Dilbert comic strips is described a s being so demeaned that she “believes that any conversation within hearing dist ance is intended as an insult to her profession and her gender. She strives to maint ain her dignity while surrounded by engineers who don't have a proper res pect for her work” (“The Characters”). Technical writers are often represent ed as an underclass of dehumanized laborers. In the 2002 James Bond film, Die Another Day Bond is handed a technical manual for his new tricked-out spy car. A fter being told by Q, the gadget master, that he could probably “shoot throug h [the manual] in a couple of hours,” Bond immediately throws the manual into the sights of the car’s targetseeking shotguns, which promptly convert the manual into a shower of paper scraps.


70 There is hope for technical writers outside of comi c strips and international spying in the fast-developing realm of gaming. In t he context of online gaming, technical writing is the lingua franca of achievement and admiration. The distributed communities of online games use technic al writing to establish a sense of community, and community members use techn ical writing to establish their positions within these groups. In such a sett ing, cyborgs are welcome; their “[i]ntense pleasure in skill, machine skill, ceases to be a sin, but an aspect of embodiment” (Haraway 83). The chapter below will ex plore how video games and the composition of technical documents provide insight into the construction of posthuman community. Gaming the Classroom Can video games be integrated into technical writin g classes? The easy answer is: of course, it is entirely possible to ha ve students compose traditional technical genres that focus on video games. Certain ly, students could write proposals for new games, compose recommendation rep orts on which recently released games to buy, create white papers on legal or ethical issues concerning video games, generate informational reports on tech nical topics related to gaming hardware and software, and assemble user doc umentation that covers subjects such as game installation, mechanics, or s trategy. Assigning user documentation is eased by the abundance of Flash-ba sed games on the web and the distribution of gamer-created content for m ainstream games, both of which present freely accessible gaming material tha t is often not well-


71 documented. New games and steady changes in underly ing technologies provide an extensive source of technical information in nee d of analysis and description, and the constant influx of new gamers supplies writ ers with an interested audience that, if past trends continue, will only g row. The promise of video games in the classroom is not that they can deliver traditional content in digital packaging. Treating video games simply as the potential content of technical writing ignores the experiences of gamers, in the words of James Paul Gee in What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy as cyborg “learners (players) embedded in a mater ial and social world” (7). Kurt Squire argues that using video games is more t han an opportunity to update the delivery of traditional material. Rathe r, video games can offer “ designed experiences in which participants learn through a grammar of doing and being ” (19). Video games that allow students to learn th rough “doing and being,” as Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, & Gee sugges t in their collaborative article, ideally combine the best of educational theory and praxis, engaging players in activities that help them “learn by integrating thi nking, social interaction, and technology, all in service of doing things they car e about” (3). Those interested in games and education, including those interested in making video games a part of technical writing curricula, must therefore shift f rom the “question of ‘delivering content’ to one of ‘designing experience’” (Squire 20). So, does this mean that technical writing instructors must await the appear ance of a technical writing


72 simulation? Not at all. Current video games already provide situations in which being a successful gamer entails doing technical writing.2 Educators are now beginning to realize the potentia l for sophisticated learning within the social contexts of video games due not only to an epistemological correspondence between technical wr iting and video games, but because the experience of being a gamer always goes beyond the screen, engaging individuals in social practices mediated b y texts that are predominantly written by gamers themselves. Viewing technical wri ting as a social practice is not a new idea. Teachers of technical writing have long turned toward the workplace to provide the social contexts in which t he production of technical genres can be studied, and to provide the cases thr ough which technical writing is often taught. The posthuman classroom is, ironic ally, not necessarily within the institution at all. The networking common to the po sthuman makes it possible for learning to occur in many locations, and with varyi ng degrees of intervention by teachers and peers. We will therefore look to the p ractices of gaming communities, in particular the experiences of those gamers involved in the persistent three-dimensional online environments kn own as MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) t o understand how video games call upon gamers to become posthuman technica l writers. Writing as Gaming Some have already tried to imagine how new video ga mes might be designed to teach writing directly. As part of thei r September 2006 issue,


73 Harper’s Magazine arranged a discussion among “four experts—two vide o-game enthusiasts and two teachers—and charged them with a task: to dream up video games that might teach, of all things, writing” (“G rand” 31).3 The impetus for such a meeting was sound; while many pedagogical project s in fields such as engineering, history, biology, architecture, and me dicine have successfully integrated video games into curricula, the teaching of writing through video games has yet to be seriously pursued. In order to harness the educational potential in video games for the teaching of writin g, such conversations need to occur between game designers and educators, and Harper’s can be commended for initiating such a discussion. But from the pers pective of someone interested in the teaching of technical writing as a social pract ice, the results of the conversation published in Harper’s are disappointing. The group began by discussing the possibility of us ing video games to teach the “rote elements of writing—grammar, punctu ation, and spelling,” and later to teach the “logical, consequential thinking ” of argument, narrative emplotment, and the development of literary charact ers (“Grand” 32). In the games these individuals imagine, players shoot zomb ies bearing misspelled words, manage a narrative in a literary version of SimCity, and write in a wiki (an online collaborative writing space). None of these suggestions address writing as a practice situated in communities (or even as part of a rhetorical situation). In fact, only the wiki idea includes interaction with other individuals as part of the process at all, but in this case the interaction is a function of the technology rather than part of the purposes or motives of thos e using it.


74 Such approaches, in which students write to no pers on for no reason, hold little credence in modern composition theory and pe dagogy. Having reduced writing instruction to the teaching of a set of nar row skills, it’s no wonder one of the speakers in the Harper’s group doubts whether such lessons will be useful i n “the real world” (“Grand” 34, 35). For their model to succeed, these skills must transfer to real writing situations, but real writi ng situations are never imagined as sites of education. Such a proposal refuses to take advantage of the posthuman networks in which gamers and gaming discourse alrea dy circulate. It projects the model of the academic classroom (and its purposeles s writing) into cyberspace without considering the very real writing that migh t be coming out of cyberspace. The only reference to a real situation is when one of the teachers, Jane Avrich, wonders whether a game could “include real reading,” for instance, by having players “read literary texts and answer ques tions about them” (“Grand” 38). In this game (which sounds a lot like a readin g quiz), answering increasingly difficult questions would, Avrich claims, produce “ [t]he text, a unique story determined by the player, [which] would ultimately lead you to the goal of your quest: the secret scrolls of Atlantis, for example, or the buried wing of the library of Alexandria.” Another speaker generously calls th is proposed game “an exercise in a form of literacy.” One might legitima tely ask here: where’s the writing? Playing this game produces a text only ins ofar as it embodies the tenet of reader response theory in which every act of rea ding produces the text being read.


75 Granted, the fusion of reading and writing is a fea ture that early theorists of hypertext such as George Landow found especially provocative, and such technologies help us acknowledge the indeterminate nature of texts as social artifacts. But the belief that navigating hypertext (or answering questions about literary texts) equals instruction in writing is di fficult to reconcile to the awareness that “language and texts . are essentially soci al activities, dependent on social structures and processes not only in their interpre tive but also in their constructive phases” (Cooper 366). In order to unde rstand the role of technical writing in gaming communities, it makes sense to tu rn towards an approach to writing that recognizes the construction of texts a s a complex social process: activity theory. Activity theory draws upon the work of such theoris ts as Charles Bazerman, Paul Prior, and David Russell, to investi gate how texts and textual practices are (re)produced in social settings. Base d on the psychological theories of Lev Vygotsky, activity theory looks at writing a s always occurring within “activity systems”—the complex ecologies of meaning and method sustained by communities of practice. These systems are composed of “goal-directed, historically-situated, cooperative human interactio ns” within communities where writing processes constitute a “complex literate ac tivity that includes reading and writing, feeling and thinking, speaking and listeni ng, observing and acting” (Russell, “Implications” 53; Bazerman and Prior 7). The move towards posthumanism has only deepened the complexities of these writing communities. Grounding writing instru ction in activity theory calls on


76 students to understand writing through the “practic es that people engage in to produce texts as well as the ways that writing prac tices gain their meanings and functions as dynamic elements of specific cultural settings” (Bazerman and Prior 2). Thus, when the Harper’s speaker suggests a video game based on the “difficult, detailed, and arcane” minutiae of liter ary analysis, it is possible to see this as trying to create a game that engages player s in some of the communal practices centered on the recurring situations expe rienced within a certain activity system—that which includes English professors. For this community, “everything from the basic rules of grammar to the obscure etym ology of words” serves as some of the tools employed in certain types of acad emic writing (“Grand” 38). But activity theorists maintain that writing as a m ember of a community must necessarily be more than the interaction betwe en an individual and an object of study using prescribed and approved metho ds. It requires engagement with other community members; “organizations as wel l as individuals have writing processes,” and it is only within these communal pr actices that one can see “how writing works and [how] people work with writing” ( Russell, “Process” 81). The Harper’s literary-reading game could become a game about wr iting if it enabled interaction among new and experienced players, for instance, in the form of discussion and debate over the interpretive choices being made, the methods enacted to reach those interpretations, and even th e very rules of the game. This would situate the desired literary reading techniqu es within the social context of a community of practice. Whether gamers would find th is enjoyable, however, is another issue.


77 Texting a Quest King’s Quest, a long-running series of graphic adve nture games published by Sierra Online, places the gamer in the role of S ir Graham—knight, hero, and, by the second game, king. But another role that pla yers of these games adopt is that of technical writer. The first installment of King’s Quest was released in 1984 for the IBM PCjr computer system. It was the first 3-dimensional computer game where the player controlled a character on the scre en in third-person mode. Moving this character was accomplished using the ke ypad, and actions were performed by typing simple commands, such as “eat m ushroom” or “open door” into an on-screen text box. In a sense, gamers playing King’s Quest I learned t o write the short, imperative sentences common to technical documents such as instructions, and each time they hit “enter” after typing an instruct ion, a usability test of their instruction was played out on the screen in front o f them—if their instruction was successful, their character took the desired action While such indirect education was common, the documentation that came with these games sometimes took encouragement of technical writing a step further. The majority of the King’s Quest II manual was concerned with the background n arrative of the player’s character and the fictional kingdom of Daventry, an d the island of Kolyma on which the player finds herself at the beginning of the game. But two pages spoke directly to the reader as gamer. The first page gav e general advice such as “leave no stone unturned” and “collect as many trea sures as you can” (Sierra 10). The next page contained the following text:


78 MAP YOUR PROGRESS You and King Graham will not be able to fulfill the prophecy without mapping your progress. Draw a map showing what diff erent directions lead where, objects found, dangerous areas—any and every landmark you see along the way. And don’t think that because you’ve been through an area once, that it will always be the same. The population of Kolyma is anything but stationary. Here’s a typical map: [flowchart-style map of connected ovals with text annotations] Above all, try every direction and map all of the d ifferent possibilities. If you miss or forget an area, you might miss an impor tant clue or a tool necessary to the completion of your quest. (Sierra 11) Here, the gamer is encouraged to become a maker of maps, a genre that is mostly ignored in technical writing textbooks, but which is highly valued in gaming communities. In fact, one young gamer took t his encouragement seriously. Below is a map created while playing Kin g’s Quest II:


79 Figure 1. Gamer-produced map for King’s Quest II. ( Mason “Map”) This map does not look much like the example provid ed in the manual, which is a flowchart with text-filled ovals connected by lines and arrows, with no representative graphics. It is quite possible that the flowchart-style map shown in the King’s Quest manual fit the practices of the co mmunities with which the game designers were familiar—that of the business world, for instance—or the practices of the community from which the game emer ged—that of the game designer(s) laying out a world whose visual appeara nce and topography were still in the process of being imagined.4 The designers could build this world by naming the locations and, literally, drawing the co nnections between the various scenes. Their map would include no graphics because such details would be decided later in the process, quite possibly by oth er individuals.


80 The map above, on the other hand, emerged from the author’s experience as a solitary gamer moving from screen to screen in a world already fully illustrated. It is hard to see, at first, how such a map produced for personal use in playing a non-collaborative game could point to the posthuman. After all, the game designers took as their model of perception th e human being, providing a ground-level view of the digital world, a choice re produced in the third-person perspective of the map’s graphics (as opposed to th e straight-down aerial perspective, or the “bird’s-eye” view, of conventio nal maps). Laurie Taylor has claimed that video games are “exp eriential spaces generated through code and the player’s interaction with the execution of that code through the medium of the screen” (“When” para 1). The design of the map above does draw attention to the “medium of the scr een,” as it is formatted in a grid, much like a series of individual screenshots. But it is important to note that the character that the gamer played in this game (S ir Graham) never adopted this perspective himself; rather, he walked across the screen as an avatar under the player’s command, without his own three-dimensi onal perspective (which had been available in video games since the mid-1970s). Already, we can see that the representation of space in the game is at once impossible without the user entering into a cognitive circuit with the screen i n which what is seen is seen from the gamer’s perspective. The design choices are not merely personal, however The map’s visual conventions reinforce the importance of the goal pr ovided by the manual to “collect as many treasures as you can”: the name of every treasure on the map is


81 enclosed in its own rectangular box. While the auth or’s map attests to the fact that the medium of the screen is just one element i n a broader context of literacy activities invoked through the playing of games, it is important to remember that this map was produced for personal use, with the li mited goal of completing the game, and so did not enter into the discourse of a broader gaming community. Modern MMORPGs are built around communities of game rs that produce and share such documents, and therefore these documents will be subject to the standards and purposes of the communities from whic h they emerge, purposes much more diverse than simply “the completion of yo ur quest.” A short list of the genres that gamers value and/or produce includes th e following: Guidebooks – depending on the game and purpose, may focus on combat strategy, level advancement, trade skills, o r other non-combat activities such as group management or conflict res olution Technical Descriptions – of in-game items/quests/characters; often found in online databases of game information; espe cially valued when describing a new discovery Policies – written to manage the recurring action of social groups, such as how one becomes a member of a specific gaming gu ild, or how loot is divided among group members Forums – online discussion boards on which players debate issues, post announcements, and coordinate with other gamers; in creasingly, game developers often track user opinions via forums or solicit suggestions directly


82 Tutorials – instructions on how to accomplish various in-gam e tasks; often text-based, accompanied by screenshots, altho ugh some online sites host tutorials gamers have created by taking screen movies of themselves performing specific actions within the g ame combined with an instructional voice-over FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions sections are staples of online sites providing introductory information to novice player s Screenshots – gamers often compose screenshots to prove that t hey have reached a special destination in a game, defea ted a specific opponent, or otherwise to commemorate in-game event s; it is also common for online communities to gather for in-game group photos that would be difficult to coordinate face-to-face Maps – portraying a range of sites and phenomena; many MMORPGs take place in vast worlds that are difficult for ne w players to navigate, and in which the geographic resources and dangers a re not obvious Reviews – of new games or game expansions, or in response to changes made in the underlying game code Walkthroughs – step-by-step procedures for completing a game; m ore commonly created for linear games with definite end points than for open-ended MMORPGs End User Licensing Agreements – contracts that define the user’s legal rights within the commercial game5


83 Mods – user-created modifications of the game; in some games, these could be anything from new boards to objects, avata rs, skins (new graphics overlaid onto pre-existing game objects), or updates to the game engine itself Narrative makes no explicit appearance above. But i t is important to remember, as John Seely Brown has explained in his article, “ Growing Up Digital,” that technical communities (in Seely’s article, tech rep s for Xerox) depend heavily on storytelling to supplement or even replace traditio nal technical documents such as manuals as sources of technical information.6 There’s no reason to believe that the stories shared by gamers in-game and in on line forums do not perform similar functions. This list does not attempt to ad dress all the different texts that gamers produce, nor does it attempt to investigate how the value of these realworld documents may be related to the in-game roles of texts as valuable game objectives and equipment (recall the suggestion in Harper’s that gamers might seek “the secret scrolls of Atlantis, or the buried wing of the library of Alexandria”).7 What this list does provide is a sense of the rang e of both traditional and hybrid genres that gamers employ to mediate their social gaming activities. While some gamers make use of insider i nformation about games provided by other players, referring to them as che ats, this is just one of the ethical issues raised by the posthuman characterist ics of distributed cognition, in which it is easy to find out what other gamers alre ady know. While students don’t often associate writing with p lay, it’s also true that many gamers come to see their play as work. As Nick Yee concludes, “many


84 players in fact characterize their game play as a s econd job,” repeating within the game the same types of “clerical tasks, logistical planning, and management” activities that they perform at work (69). It’s uns urprising, then, to find that the writing genres that gamers create in the process of playing games are comparable to those found in other technical commun ities. For activity theorists, genre is a key concept in writing instruction becau se genres embody the standard forms and processes of communication withi n a community of practice. They are the “recognizable, self-reinforcing forms of communication” that emerge to address the shared common purposes and si tuations that members of a community often face (Bazerman, “Speech” 316). Wi thout these shared and recurring experiences and the genres that emerge to address them, there is no need for enculturation in communal writing practice s. And if, as Bazerman argues, genres of writing are “ continuing realizations of social activity within socially structured situations,” that is, if they a lways carry the mark of their “historical, social moment,” then teachers should b e able to use the writing of gamers within gaming communities to provide student s insight into the contemporary practices of technical communication ( Shaping 128, emphasis added, 5). Guilding the Writer “‘Experience,’ said Holmes, laughing. ‘Indirectly i t may be of value, you know; you have only to put it into words to gain the repu tation of being excellent company for the remainder of your existence.’” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


85 Tom Malone has shown how games tap into players’ cu riosity, fantasy, and need for challenge and control to create what h e calls “intrinsically motivating” environments (333). The role of motivat ion in getting humans to produce discourse is not an afterthought in posthum anism, as Deleuze’s and Guattari’s use of “desiring machines” evidences. Ar guably, players in MMORPG environments, by plugging into the machine that is the game, are motivated to collaborate. As Brad McQuaid, one of the designers of the game EverQuest (EQ) has stated, “By creating an environment often too c hallenging for a solo player, people are compelled to group and even to form larg e guilds and alliances. All of this builds community, and it all keeps players com ing back for more and more” (Qtd. in Jakobsson and Taylor 88). By becoming members of a guild, players stake their position as nodes in a virtual network of knowledge. They contribute to the larger success of their guild through the accumulation of group capital, ev en as they advance as individuals. This play of plurality and singularity makes every guild to be a multitude in the sense forwarded by Hardt and Negri The ability of players to switch among multiple avatars, each with distinct p ossessions and abilities makes these “whatever” communities in the sense for warded by Agamben. Bodies are not devalued, however. As anyone who’s p layed EQ knows, one’s body in the game is a valuable commodity. Dying str ands your body, often in inconvenient places, and a player must often enlist the help of others to reclaim it before it disappears from the game, taking with the all the functionality and capital embedded in the prostheses it was carrying at the time of death.


86 The collaborative nature of such game play is not o nly necessary for the accumulation of material capital embodied in durabl e commodities that can be traded both in and outside the game (in-game curren cy, or components for crafting items in-game, for example), it also facil itates the accumulation of the various social and cultural capital that gamers cre ate through their participation in social networks. Thomas Malaby has explored the man y types of capital that gamers generate, working from Pierre Bourdieu’s acc ount of the “economy of practices” in order to show how “human practice ove r time accumulates in different forms . the congealed labor of commod ities, the lasting obligations of social networks, or the established cultural practi ces of taste” (147). What Malaby does not address is the role that writing serves in the production of this capital. Sherlock Holmes had Watson, his faithful chronicler to put his exploits into words. Gamers have themselves. Social capital is a valuable resource in MMORPGs, especially as gamers join groups (known as “guilds” in EQ) and advance to higher levels. As Jakobsson and Taylor w rite, “a character might be quite powerful in terms of experience level, [but] they also need social capital to draw on to progress to the true high-end game” (86) They further state that guilds, by solving previously unsolved puzzles, or figuring out how to defeat difficult new creatures, are able to “actually cont ribute to the broader collective knowledge of the game.” Guilds thus qualify as a “p ool of people eligible for rewards accruing from the production” of knowledge about the game world they inhabit (Longo 2). As Bernadette Longo explains in her book, Spurious Coin: A History of Science, Management, and Technical Writi ng “technical writing is the


87 apparatus for assigning credit and value” for the p roduction of such knowledge (2). By becoming technical writers, gamers are able to manage their accumulation of social capital. Jakobsson and Taylor also claim that although gamer s are “creators of their gaming experience. . there is actually ve ry little freedom for any given player to affect the larger social structure” and t hus the “specific contribution of any single player is almost never visible” (89). Wh ile this may be true in terms of changes made to the overall social structure of the game, it does not apply to the production of knowledge about these games at the mi cro-level, the majority of which is credited to the individuals who collect an d publish such information. There are many online sites that enable gamers to g ain credit by sharing the knowledge they have accumulated through play. The w eb site Allakhazam's Magical Realm (, for insta nce, is an online database of information about EQ. All of the information abo ut the gaming worlds is attributed to the individual gamers who submit it, who gain the title of “scholar,” “sage” or “guru” for their unpaid efforts. Let’s consider a gamer known online as Friedrich Ps italon, a contributor to Allakhazam's Magical Realm and sites like it. Fried rich frequently uploaded images and descriptions of items to online database s like Allakhazam’s Magical Realm, but these were not Friedrich’s only venue fo r spreading technical knowledge about the game. At the time, Friedrich wa s guild master of the PovarTarew Artisans (PTA), an EQ guild dedicated to the mastery of trades (in EQ, players can practice a trade, becoming, for instanc e, a tailor, smith, cook,


88 jeweler, or alchemist). The PTA created a web site to manage their guild, a place where anyone could access the collective wisdom of their guild members.8 Their site hosted a “library” containing such documents a s “Sojiba's Guide to Potions,” “Wrin's Guide to Baking,” “Yoan's Guide to Brewing, ” “Doompety's Guide to Tinkering,” and “Friedrich’s Guide to Making Things That Shine” (i.e. jewelry)—all technical documents written by guild members and at tributed to them using their in-game character names. The site also contained do cuments intended to mediate guild activities such as news and announcem ents, their guild charter, a code of ethics, policies for advancing within the g uild, and rules for conducting guild activities such as the in-game bazaars where they sold their crafts. Overall, the guild used technical documents to sustain and o rganize their online community, as well as gain prestige in the eyes of other gamers by sharing their collective knowledge. Through his guild membership and community particip ation both in and out of the game, Friedrich maintained a reputation as one of those individuals who “know the [community’s] specialized language an d can turn this knowledge into specialized practices,” thus becoming “eligibl e for the power, influence, and funding that accrue from this knowledge” (Longo 3). Some evidence of the usefulness of such capital is that Friedrich was ab le to parlay his experience as an EQ guild master, as an active contributor to onl ine gaming forums, and as an amateur competitive gamer into a position as a prod uction assistant for Firaxis Games. Firaxis Games is a video game development co mpany best known for its Civilization games, a series of award-winning histo rical simulation and strategy


89 games in which you build an empire through ancient times to the modern age and beyond. Once established as an in-house authority, Friedric h was asked to coauthor (under his real name) the Brady Games offici al strategy guide for the most recent Civilization game. Such translations of “exp erience in the virtual world into success in the real one,” Brown and Thomas write, a re “bound to become more common as the gaming audience explodes and gameplay becomes more sophisticated.” They call such educational experien ces “accidental learning” that favors “ learning to be— a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture—a s opposed to learning about .” While many are willing to admit the considerable amount of learning that takes place in gaming, and the importance of networking in the development of marketable skills, the role t hat writing plays in such experiential learning remains largely unrecognized. Gaming as Productive Social Practice At a time when online gaming industry revenues are overshadowing more traditional entertainment options, when corporate, military, and private interests are actively pursuing their agendas through the dev elopment of interactive games, and when both children and adults are spendi ng an increasing amount of their lives developing online identities and intera cting socially with other gamers, it is unsurprising to learn that a host of academic and non-academic initiatives, centers, groups, and conferences has emerged to und erstand (and influence) how games affect literacy and learning. For instanc e, in a 2004 white paper


90 entitled “Video Games and the Future of Learning,” educators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Academic Advanced Distribute d Learning Co-Laboratory argued that video games “have the potential to chan ge the landscape of education as we know it,” because they are “not jus t about facts or isolated skills, but embody particular social practices” (Shaffer et al. 2). I’d like to think that it is not such a revolutiona ry idea that education is “not just about facts or isolated skills.” At the least, I don’t believe such an insight will revolutionize the teaching of writing. Over half a century ago, in his 1953 dissertation, Albert Kitzhaber called on teachers t o stop teaching writing through the “modes” (traditionally defined as narration, de scription, exposition and argument) which he believed provided an “unrealisti c view of the writing process” and, rather, to understand writing as a “meaningful act of communication in a social context ” (139, emphasis added). Almost a quarter century a go, Marilyn Cooper proposed an “ecological model of writing, wh ose fundamental tenet is that writing is an activity through which a person is continually engaged with a variety of socially constituted systems” (367). She was building on the work of previous scholars who had resisted the view of writ ing as merely a set of cognitive processes, scholars who had concluded ins tead that writing “cannot be artificially separated from the social-rhetorical s ituations in which writing gets done, from the conditions that enable writers to do what they do, and from the motives writers have for doing what they do” (Qtd. in Cooper 367). Today, the role of the social in writing practices is consider ed fundamental to writing instruction.


91 With a strong record of understanding writing throu gh social ecologies, writing teachers are well prepared to understand th e role of language and writing in the dynamic, free-form interactions that charact erize modern MMORPGs, to take advantage of the access that the Internet prov ides to the documents of online gaming communities, and to perceive how the in-game and out-of-game activities of these communities constitute “dynamic interlocking systems which structure the social activity of writing” (Cooper 3 68). Such work can illuminate the contours of posthuman learning and challenge the “a xiomatic assumption that games are by definition ‘unproductive,’” by drawing attention to the texts produced by gamers to mediate social interactions ( Pearce 17). If it is true that the production and circulation of technical genres is a feature of successful gaming communities, then participation in these gam es is one way to offer students access to a social context in which techni cal writing matters. When video games first emerged, their simplicity ca rried over to their instructions. Pong, the first coin-op arcade game t o gain widespread attention, simply stated “Avoid missing ball for high score” ( Cohen 37). For other early games, game developers could produce short manuals that included descriptions of all the characters, locations, and items that a player would encounter while playing the game. But with MMORPGs such as EQ boast ing over 50,000 unique items, and constantly adding them, it’s easy to see why manuals for these games would avoid the traditional role of describing game content. The scale of modern video games thus produces an environment that encou rages the types of activity pointed out by Raph Koster, a video game designer s peaking in the Harper’s


92 forum, when he noted that “Lots of players have wri tten their own game guides” (“Grand” 34). The open-ended nature of MMORPGs and the socially-c onstructed norms of gaming communities ensure that “there is a wide gap between how the game is described through the official channels, such as in the manual, and how it is actually played” (Jakobsson and Taylor 89). The tec hnical genres created by gamers serve as what Carolyn Miller has called “gen res of social action”—genres that reveal the “typified rhetorical actions based in [the] recurrent situations” that members of a community face (159).9 The manuals created by game development companies typically do not address thes e recurrent situations, a circumstance that leads gamers to produce their own texts. While it may be true, as one gamer writes, that “most gamers (including m e) prefer to skip the guide, install the game, and learn by doing,” this dismiss al of guidebooks is usually limited only to official game manuals that are packaged with the game when you buy it (Jimpy). That MMORPGs are “fairly free-form, without any spe cific goal that you have to reach” turns the games into a process of di scovery in which the gamer must explore the world, collect information, invest igate possibilities, and engage in problem-solving to advance, often with the help of other gamers (“Grand” 34). As they gain expertise about the game world and how to succeed in it, players can create “guides [that] synthesize all that knowl edge, translate it into prose, make it intelligible to other people” (“Grand” 35). Such guides are found not only freely distributed, but for sale as well. It is tel ling that one of the Harper’s


93 speakers responds to the suggestion that gamers cou ld create game guides by asking whether gamers would be “able to abstract th is knowledge out of the gaming world and into the real world?” What this sp eaker fails to see is that, in producing these guides for consumption by other pla yers, gamers have already abstracted knowledge out of the gaming world into t he real world using the skills it takes to write, organize, and, sometimes, to mar ket their texts. In truth, active participation in gaming communities demands profici ency in “a range of (primarily written) social practices, eliciting an enormous am ount of reading, writing, research, and argumentation,” the very skills the Harper’s group appears to be interested in (Squire 23). That gamers are willing to put great effort into th e production of texts that they then distribute outside of the games they play should not be surprising. As Bazerman has recognized, the learning, attention, a nd development of individuals are “closely tied to what they find (or can be convinced is) real and engaging, even if at certain moments play is what s trikes them as most real” (“Editor’s” ix ). Posthumanism dissolves the boundaries between th e real and the virtual, between the simulation and the simulated. Certainly, the fact that some individuals have made careers out of playing video games (both as competitive players and as online merchants selling in-game ite ms for actual money) suggests that there is more reality here than often presumed.10 Though often devalued as mere play, video games are significant sites of literacy. In a study of the literacy activities of preadolescent African American males interested in basketball, Jabari Mahiri noted that these youth, though


94 selective in their reading interests, “eagerly devo ured 20to 30-page video game manuals describing the rules and strategies for pla ying computer basketball and other computer sports games” (310). Part of the edu cational value of video gaming comes from how motivated gamers are to becom e successful members in gaming communities. In some cases, such occasion s lead to an individual’s first serious engagement with technical genres, or with activities common in technical communities such as usability testing.11 The link between video games, learning, and technic al communication rests partly on a common epistemology. The traditio nal goals of technical communication are, as Mike Markel has written, to h elp readers “learn something or carry out a task” (5). The basic assumption is t hat readers of technical writing primarily read for the purpose of enabling a specif ic action. After all, few people peruse a phonebook just for fun. Technical genres a re thus often viewed as “functional documents” that focus on a “human agent performing actions in a particularized situation” (Flower, Hayes, and Swart s 42). Squire has argued that video games are designed according to a “ functional epistemology . [where the] player’s actions are his or her interface with the world” (22). Whether casting spells, swinging swords, drinking p otions, or practicing trade skills, players of EQ survive and advance thr ough their in-game actions. Surely, players are motivated by the desire for fun ; but in order to have fun in the game, players must acquire the technical knowledge necessary to perform actions successfully in the game world. These actio ns are the “building blocks by which players become action heroes, civilization leaders, or L.A. gangs ters”

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95 (Squire 22). This “grammar of doing and being ” within video games parallels the functional epistemology of technical writing (Squir e 19). Since most MMORPGs reward players for continued play by granting them new abilities, it is easy to see how gamers can conflate fun with the ability to do (more and better) things.12 Gamers also reinforce the functional link between t echnical documents and video games by viewing these documents as tools that enable future action in the game by providing accurate information. Such attitudes position the “technical writer in a quite orthodox, classical wo rld” where writing “functions best when it functions as a conduit for verifiable, tech nical information” (Neel 23). As one online gaming site promises, “we try our best t o keep the information here as accurate and up to date as possible” (“About EQTC”) But many scholars have shown how technical writing is anything but “a tran sparent conveyor of neutral, objective facts” with accuracy as its sole measure (Bushnell 179). So, the above should not be taken as an argument that technical d ocuments created by gamers are, or should be, merely functional documents. Tec hnical writing is entirely rhetorical, and its production is shot through with ethical and political issues attendant to the social construction of meaning thr ough language. The recognition of the functional relationship betw een video games and technical writing shouldn’t be allowed to undermine the critical aims of sociallybased pedagogies. Educators can encourage students to look closely at the social activities of gaming communities (and not ju st the game itself) in order to understand how technical writing participates in wh at Longo calls “historically situated institutions of relationships of knowledge and power—how some types of

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96 knowledge are valued and legitimated through techni cal writing practices, while other possible knowledges are devalued or excluded as marginal” (12). Without such inquiry, technical writing is reduced to its p ositivistic and functional aspects. But without the close attention to the social inter actions of communities that approaches such as activity theory call for, includ ing recognition of the functional objectives of many gamers, such inquiry is impossib le. Writing(:) the Future of Video Games in Education “But will computers change the way we learn? We ans wer: Yes. Computers are already changing the way we learn—and if you want to understand how, look at video games. Look at video games, . . Look at video games . . Look at video games . .” –Shaffer et al., “Video Games and the Future of Lea rning” Video games are a convenient touchstone for the cha nging nature of education. Already, university classes are being he ld, not just online, but within online gaming worlds such as Second Life —a three-dimensional virtual world in which “residents” have near-unlimited control, not just over the appearance of their avatars, but over the mechanics of the game w orld itself. Online sites such as the Apolyton University have emerged to satisfy gamers’ need for advanced instruction in gameplay. Accredited bricks-and-mort ar institutions such as the DigiPen Institute of Technology now offer degrees i n Real-Time Interactive Simulation.13 The epigraph above repeatedly calls upon us to “lo ok at video games” as the site of understanding the potential o f computer-mediated learning. In order to understand the role of video games in l earning, in particular the learning of writing, we need to look beyond the gam es themselves to the

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97 activities of gaming communities, and to the docume nts that circulate throughout the social contexts beyond the screen, and to these texts’ relation to the political and ethical commitments of gamers within these comm unities. With their long-term commitment to the “central rol e that communities play in both writing and writing pedagogy,” writing teac hers are well-positioned to take advantage of the experiences that video games offer to facilitate writing instruction. (Thralls and Blyler 250). If one accep ts David Russell’s decree that “All learning is situated within some activity syst em(s). One learns by participating—directly or vicariously” in these sys tem(s), then perhaps students can learn technical writing through participation i n the activity systems constituted by video gaming (“Implications” 56). By looking at the activity systems in which gamers write, we can better understand the practice s and genres which form the basis of gamers’ communicative practice, and we can also establish the educational value of existing video games. Such work recognizes that the networked classroom i s not just a classroom connected to the internet by wires, but a circuit made through bodies, intentions, and affects. Taking our place as machin es in the posthuman university need not entail, and posthuman education does not necessarily mean holding a class inside of virtual spaces such as Se cond Life. What matters is critical attention to the way that education happen s through our connections with others by the virtue of our embodiment within netwo rks of communication and collaboration.

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98 Chapter 4 Posthuman Institutions Much of the focus on posthumanism has been on its more technologized features. Perhaps this is because non-human prosth esis are the most visible and exciting characteristics of the posthuman age. Even more notable than the visibility and excitement of technology, however, i s the anxiety it brings. While it is likely that the greatest anxiety is present in t hose individuals who have the least familiarity with technology, even proponents of technologized culture often cite some nagging concerns about the pervasiveness of machinery in realms once reserved for humans alone. Because of itÂ’s visibility and the anxiety it inspires, coupled with everpresent and ongoing debates about the ethical dimen sions of using more advanced technology in various arenas, posthumanism is often wrongly defined in terms of technology alone. However, any view of posthumanism that is limited to the melding of human and machine is overly simpl istic and fails to address the other important aspects of posthumanism. Further, conceptualizing posthumanism as effecting only individuals is a mis take. Posthumanism affects cultures of people, specific communities, and insti tutions, as well as the conventions governing action and power within those groups. In this chapter, I

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99 will look to the university to examine the ways in which posthumanism is shaping institutional identities in the face of the knowled ge economy. The knowledge economy is characterized by a work e nvironment where individuals must cross-train across departmental an d disciplinary boundaries, communicate with individuals with a diversity of id entities and areas of expertise, and where individuals must be ready to master any n umber of technological tools to succeed. To meet the needs of future workers in the knowledge economy, our universities are adopting various strategies, such as the implementation of service learning, to successfully adapt to the dema nds of posthumanism. The American university in general, and the humani ties specifically, is struggling to make sense of its place in a culture shaped by fast capitalism, oppositional politics, boutique multiculturalism, s ocial hierarchies, free markets, technological revolution, international conflict, a nd a host of other phenomena that challenge the university as a site of traditio nal humanistic inquiry. At the same time, these forces highlight the universityÂ’s more modern roles in the knowledge economy as a credentialing service, gatek eeper, and commercial incubator. A commonplace view of popular versions of posthuma nism features the incorporation of technology into the body. Modern a cademic institutions have embraced their roles as technology showcases, servi ng as environments in which students test the limits of their comfort wit h new technologies. But we rarely talk about the role of educational instituti ons in introducing students to this process of incorporation in anything but positive t erms, and thus have neglected

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100 the ways in which the college curriculum mediates t he anxiety associated with losing one’s humanity and putting on a more technol ogized identity. How do college curriculums, for instance, both enable stud ents to see their bodies as “incarnations of worldwide webs and global networks ,” and reassure them of their essential humanity (Taylor, Moment 17)? I want to consider how the tension between humanis tic inquiry and posthumanistic incorporation to technological and t echnocratic systems has shaped the college curriculum, and I argue in the f ollowing chapter that the rise of service learning across many disciplines is a ma rker of the attempts by colleges to position themselves within a humanistic tradition of seeking truth and serving others, even as they participate in prepari ng students for posthuman networks of distributed production and the modern r eality of career-hopping and consultation. Consider the description of one write r’s professional life: You cannot call such meandering a career; it was mo re like a wind-up doll moving along a crooked path by careening into walls I have lost count, but since 1965, I have had at least two dozen diffe rent employers and six different episodes of self-employment. I spent twen ty of those years as a contractor, writing for hire on a project-by-projec t basis, as opposed to being an employee in the business. As a contractor, I seldom saw a project through to its conclusion. I was usually in volved in another project by the time the video was released, the manual was published, or the presentation was made. (Kenney 157)

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101 Here is a prescient insight into the post-industria l reality of specialized labor practices in which employees can be plugged in and out of the production cycle as needed, never working on a product from start to finish. It is also a representation of the posthuman workplace at the he art of the knowledge economy, one with flattened structures where connec tion and collaboration are more important than hierarchy, where job responsibi lities are flexible, and where employees are more likely to seek another job with higher pay than to get a raise where they are. Such positions are now characterize d by complex ecologies of information that employees must continually filter, analyze, and translate. The role of technology in enabling this filtering, analysis, and translation has led to universities touting features such as th eir high-speed connections to the internet backbone, as well as their number of w ired classrooms, wi-fi hot spots, and open-use computer labs. In most discipli nes, the existence of advanced technologies can determine the curriculum and the specializations with which students can graduate. Even in the field of w riting studies, most programs that give advanced degrees in technical writing or web design have usability labs on campus in which students use an array of recordi ng devices to collect feedback from the readers of their documents. Schoo ls laud their integration of blogs, podcasts, and wikis into their curriculum, a nd many have developed online courses and developed partnerships to distribute co ntent through iTunes and other technology services. In their research progra ms, schools have worked hard to develop centers in emerging and commercially via ble areas such as biotechnology, genetics, informatics, and military technologies. All of this

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102 beckons students with the promise of success in tod ay’s technologically advanced posthuman workplace. Although it is easy to focus on the hard sciences as the site of the uncritical embrace of technology, the role of techn ology in the humanities demands a similar critique. In fact, William Spanos traces the tendency to ignore the role of technology in the humanities back to Fo ucault’s application of the base-superstructure model of classical Marxism, in which Foucault describes an “unevenly developed discourse [which has] inadverte ntly reinscribed the false opposition” between the sciences and the humanities (47). Rather, Spanos claims that the humanities are just as complicit in the uncritical endorsement and obfuscation of the posthuman condition. As he write s: scholars continue to “identify the ‘regime of truth” with the scientific /technological/capitalist establishment while minimizing the role that litera ture, philosophy, and the arts, and the institutions that transmit their ‘truths,’ play.” This chapter, then, wants to consider the ideological implications of perhaps on e of the most sacred practices of liberal education—service learning—and argue tha t its embrace is a response to posthumanism that does not sufficiently critique its own objectives, and one that allows the university to appease both humanist ic and posthumanistic compulsions. It is, in short, a marker of the unive rsity’s fractured and composite identity. At a time when several state legislatures and some universities are considering the so-called “Academic Freedom Bill of Rights” (which attempts to impose ideological balance upon academic classrooms ), when conservative

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103 organizations are offering bounties for evidence of academic liberal bias, and when web sites expose “radical” teachers and call f or their dismissal, service learning and the circulation of information about i t might be seen as a defensive strategy. By making the work of professors knowable visible, and comprehensible to the public, service learning ease s apprehension about what happens within classroom walls. This effort is aide d by the human interest aspect of service learning which encourages media coverage and is easily appropriated for official university promotional efforts. The im age of service learning in which students contribute to the success of their communi ties as part of their college education thus alleviates the anxiety that they are becoming dehumanized in their quest for employment, status, and knowledge. Service learning assures the public that students are not adopting the elitism a ssociated with the ivory tower. Service learning also plays well to the anti-intel lectualism of modern society. News articles perennially denounce the “es oteric shop talk” at academic conferences like MLA. Service learning has the virt ue, at least, of being easy to understand. And the service performed for the commu nity provides a counterpoint to the common view of university profe ssors as out-of-touch elites protected from political, economic, and cultural fo rces. For many teachers, the introduction of local service projects into curricu la enhances students’ understanding of citizenship and community as it al so enhances the understanding of course content. For some like Dona ld Lazere, however, the focus on local politics is disturbing, since he see s it as a political retreat. He warns that “the limited aims of purely local activi sm signal a constriction in

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104 political consciousness that has grave consequences for the future of this generation” (354). Likewise, service learning may a lso be a retreat from posthumanism. In general, academics are happy and willing to ado pt service learning pedagogies that place students in real-world situat ions. As we saw in the previous chapter looking at the real-world activiti es of virtual gaming communities, such contexts do promise to allow stud ents a better understanding of the situated nature of communication. But the br oader reasons for the widespread adoption of service learning are not mer ely pedagogical. They are part of the process by which institutions are becom ing posthuman. Working through Posthumanism What does it mean to work as a posthuman, and how d o schools prepare students for this work? Several recent texts have e ngaged with the idea of working in network culture in an attempt to better understand the place of the individual within what is now termed the age of “di stributed work.” An entire special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly was devoted to such work, which editor Clay Spinuzzi defines as “coordinative polycontextual, crossdisciplinary work that splices together divergent w ork activities (separated by time, space, organization, and objectives) and that enables the transformations of information and texts that characterize such wor k” (265). Melinda Turnley has similarly described the demands of workers in posth uman workplaces as

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105 requiring interconnected sets of literacies that ar e “layered” to “combine basic, rhetorical, social, technological, ethical, and cri tical skills” (104). In the past, employees developed “vertical experti se,” where career learning happened strictly within the boundaries of a particular discipline. Over the course of a career, an individual would acquire more and more expertise and experience in her field only (Engestrm, Y., Engest rm R., and Vhho 346). Advancement in this professional setting was based on a hierarchy in which the knowledge needed as both worker and manager was wel l-established. Posthuman environments characterized by distributed work demand a kind of “horizontal expertise” where individuals learn acro ss boundaries, across “organizations, activities, disciplines, fields, tr ades, and settings” (Engestrm, Y., Engestrm, R., and Krkkinen 320). Service learni ng produces horizontal expertise by asking students to cross the boundarie s of the classroom and the institution in order to work with community organiz ations and within community organizations. In many cases, these organizations d emand a range of skills of the students, skills that go far beyond those typic ally assessed in any single college course. This is not unlike the scenario add ressed in the previous chapter, in which video games call upon gamers to engage in a wide variety of literate activities. Spinuzzi correctly notes that communica tors in today’s technologically saturated world must be “one part writer, one part project manager, one part programmer, and one part student” (273). My own experience with writing professionally reinf orces this sense that to be a contributing member of the new workforce and i ndividual must wear many

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106 hats. Even when I was hired as a “technical writer, ” I didn’t do just technical writing. In total honesty, I don’t think the organ izations that hired me could really articulate what they needed me to do. They just kn ew they wanted something done. Often, it is the work of the technical commu nicator to figure out what needs to be done, how to get it done, and then to c ommunicate some sort of understanding to a number of audiences after actual ly doing whatever it was that needed done. Technical writers are expected to be e xperts in technology, whatever that technology may do, and for that reaso n they must be willing to learn on the job and to assume any number of profes sional identities in order to be successful (or perhaps, to simply justify their existence). Technical writers must be skilled in communicating to everyone, as th ey are likely to come into contact with others across disciplinary, organizati onal, and departmental boundaries in their distributed work environments. Working in a distributed work environment in our po sthuman age, technical writers aren’t limited to writing softwar e manuals. They are designing interfaces, managing workgroups, building databases testing usability, marketing identities, and editing multimedia. It is difficult for any single classroom to reproduce the conditions of the posthuman workplace because the concerns of most teachers seem, perhaps unfairly, to be relativ ely narrow. But experiences such as service learning, by compelling students to satisfy the varied, and sometimes unreasonable, demands of real clients, co me close to what professional writers experience every day.

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107 During their professional lives, students will have to meet the demands of clients. Meeting the demands of clients may be a s omewhat different task than meeting the demands of the student’s discipline. I n other words, some projects may require students accomplish tasks for a client that might not have been a focus of their academic studies. In order to meet the demands of clients, students must use skills culled from multiple colle ge courses (and sometimes skills learned as needed during the project). Because so many companies have flattened their orga nizational structures, the range of skills required to be a co ntributing member of an organization has broadened. While students will be required to master skills outside of their disciplines, ironically, this post -disciplinary approach may serve to make each discipline’s content more meaningful to s tudents. As an article in a recent Proceedings from the American Society for Engineeri ng Education noted, one reason engineering students fail to realize the importance of writing is that communication is “often treated as a set of skills that students are supposed to acquire outside of engineering” (2261). The author s argue that students need to see the relation between their work in communicatio ns and their core coursework and skill set, including problem solving, equations modeling processes, and product design. Composition theorists and writing t eachers have known this for a long time now—that effective writing instruction is grounded in authentic work that calls on complex set of literacies. The practi ce of learning though communication—especially communication within actua l organizations—will better enable our students to acquire both the vert ical and horizontal expertise

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108 they will need to succeed in posthuman workplaces t hat demand distributed work skills In some ways, the posthuman shift toward distribute d work is facilitated by our changing physical environments. In the late 60 s, Robert Probst introduced American offices to moveable, low-walled cubicles. The mobility of cubicles reflected a new modular attitude towards work—cubic les, employees, and information could all be added, moved, or removed v ery easily. Now, perhaps, we are shifting towards office environments like th e ones we see in commercials for business credit cards, where employees crash on bean bag chairs behind laptops, seated in a circle to share ideas. In oth er representations, giant dark rooms fill with prone employees lying silent and “i deating.” The heavy oak seminar desk has been replaced by a ping pong table While this certainly isn’t everywhere, it is definitely a trend, as evidenced by the offices of some very visible and highly successful companies such as Goo gle, RedBull, and Pixar. These changing physical spaces facilitate working i n new ways—sharing ideas without heed to boundaries, working in group settings, working beyond job titles, and of course, working in both virtual and material environments. In these complex ecologies, each employee holds multiple rol es, and is no longer expected to perform only the responsibilities of hi s or her job title. In the age of posthumanism, workers must perform what Spinuzzi ca lls “interpenetrated work”—work that “involve(s) more communication, mor e and different types of communication, and consequently more need for rheto rical analysis and rhetorical skill” (266). The classroom is a poor pr oxy for the complex and

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109 unpredictable working conditions students may find themselves in after graduation. As a way for students to gain the type of identitie s and habits associated with posthuman workplaces, service learning has ser ved admirably, all the while presenting itself as a humanistic endeavor focused on serving the needs of the community. In other words, service learning is just one more machine into which posthuman selves can plug themselves. It is a techn ology of self that produces posthuman subjectivities primed for employment in p osthuman systems. These posthuman workplaces have been primarily formed, no t by humanistic concerns, but by economic and political forces. So, in the re st of this chapter, I want to pay particular attention to how the same economic and p olitical forces that have shaped posthuman workplaces are affecting instituti ons of higher education as well, and are driving the current popularity of ser vice-learning pedagogies among stakeholders committed to both humanistic and posth umanistic ideals. The Service Machine “It is not learning but the spirit of service that will give a college a place in the annals of the nation.” —Woodrow Wilson, Princeton in the Nation’s Service “In order to maintain the use of this teaching tool and to keep it fresh and productive, it is crucial for us to consider the da rk side of the pedagogy and be alert to situations that might create a negative ex perience for any involved.” —Toni S. Whitfield, “The Dark Side of Service Learn ing” When the term service learning first appeared in print in the U.S. in 1967 in the Southern Regional Education Board’s work to provide state leaders with

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110 resources for long-range education planning, many c ampuses already held a strong commitment to the public good as part of the ir academic mission (Jacoby 12). Indeed, the academic commitment to public serv ice has long received strong support from students, administrators, and public p olicy. Scholars such as John Dewey had laid the humanistic foundation for intere st in service learning through their support of experiential education in the firs t half of the twentieth century, as did national policies such as the Morrill Act of 18 62 which established U.S. landgrant institutions for the study of agricultural an d mechanical arts. But it was not until the 1960s, marked by the creation of the Peac e Corps in 1961 and the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program in 1965, that significant interest developed in the U.S. in the educational value of service. Today, service learning is used to refer to various forms of “experiential education in which students engage in activities th at address human and community needs together with structured activities intentionally designed to promote learning and development” (Jacoby 5). In th e idealized grassroots version of service learning, students in a chemistr y class might test local water bodies for certain chemicals and report their findi ngs to government agencies and advocacy groups, while students in a technical writing class might design a web site for a non-profit organization. The less id ealistic version of service learning has much more in common with traditional e ntrepreneurial partnerships between business and education. In all cases, the s tated goal is to enhance student learning while providing a service to the c ommunity. Despite the “periodic mortality” of interest in it over the last forty ye ars, service learning has achieved

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111 an increasingly stable position in higher education especially since the mid 1980s (Zlotkowski 22). Membership in Campus Compact (2007)—a national coalition of U.S. college and university presidents “committed to fulfilling the public purposes of higher education” through initia tives such as service learning—has grown from only 4 members in 1985 to n ow nearly 1,100 (“About”). Once thought to be mainly the project of progressiv e educators influenced by the civil rights and other social justice moveme nts, service learning has become institutionalized and professionalized inter nationally through a host of specialized journals, conferences, associations, gr ant programs, textbooks, seminars, book series, campus offices, and dedicate d university personnel.14 “Unencumbered by a disciplinary identity,” service learning has flourished in fields ranging from physical education to architect ure, and can be found in some form in every academic discipline (Schutz and Gere 179). The “decentralized interest in service linked to higher education” app ears in many places, such as in the statements of commitment to community service n ow commonly found in official university documents (Zlotkowski 22). Due to this broad distribution, a wide range of activities constitute service learnin g practice, from community advocacy projects to discipline-specific tutoring t o internships with local businesses. Depending on which scholar you read, th ere are anywhere from two to a dozen different models of service learning. Su ch flexibility is one of service learning’s strengths, and a vital aspect of its cur ricular durability. As Donald Lazere has written, “No one size fits all in experi ential learning; each situation

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112 calls for its own model based on its own teaching s ite, pool of students, and community” (355). Service learning has contributed to the commodifica tion of knowledge in our posthuman university system that increasingly e mphasizes utility over the traditional values of a liberal education. Addition ally, the performance of service is related to the creation and distribution of know ledge about the academy and its inhabitants. Here, I won’t focus, as others have do ne, on the failure of servicelearning practitioners to help students discover “s ystemic explanation[s]” for social ills and their tendency to see “social probl ems as chiefly or only personal” (Herzberg, “Community” 309). While valid, such crit iques ironically view this problem as a personal failure of the teacher to tak e advantage of the critical potential inherent in service-learning pedagogies. Rather, I want to question the degree to which the larger discourse of service in the corporatized university opposes the traditional goals of service learning ( and thus the traditional humanist foundation of service learning). David Coogan has argued for greater attention to th e material conditions in which service learning occurs, and has written t hat “effective advocacy does not begin with the principles of good argument, . but with an analysis of those historical and material conditions that have made s ome arguments more viable than others” (668). In a similar fashion, I intend to interrogate the material conditions that have, for many teachers, made servi ce learning approaches more viable than other pedagogies in today’s academic cl imate, as well as in the global climate where attitudes toward American institution s are at risk of being

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113 negatively impacted by international events. Such a n approach draws attention to how the institutional embrace of service learning i n a knowledge economy is based, not just on civic, cognitive, and moral just ifications, but on economic and political factors as well. The pressure placed on e ducators by the connectivity of the classroom to both the local and global communit y to adopt pedagogies that make use of these connections via service partnersh ips is one aspect of the posthuman era. No longer can responsible educators manage classrooms and students as if they are not already connected to th e world beyond the classroom walls. Service learning makes these connections exp licit, although it may also limit these connections in troubling ways. Although in general I support (and have practiced) service-learning pedagogies, and recognize the many potential person al and social benefits to such activity, I also want to be critical of the wa ys in which the discourse surrounding service learning can be co-opted by tho se seeking to solidify the influence of market logic and corporate culture ove r educational institutions. Critical assessment of how projects are chosen, imp lemented, and evaluated must be a part of every service-learning program. O therwise, as Robert Crooks has written, service learning can become a “kind of voluntary band-aiding of social problems that not only ignores the causes of problems but lets off the hook those responsible for the problem” (Qtd. in Lazere 309). Hesitant to address root social causes, service-learning practitioners may n eglect opportunities for “uniting knowledge-making and political action” in favor of less risky forms of community engagement (Cushman, “Public” 328). In th ese ways, service

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114 learning unintentionally serves to legitimize the a uthority of market-savvy institutions by providing them a way to signify the ir commitment to the public good, while allowing them to avoid producing signif icant changes in the communities they serve. Such a possibility is a dis service to the public good to which service learning seeks to contribute. Free Labor and the Production of Marketable Univers ities “It is the vanity of educators that they shape the educational system to their preferred image. They may not be without influence but the decisive force is the economic system.” –John Kenneth Galbraith (1967), The New Industrial State When the passage above was published in 1967, in a book the author himself considered his “principal effort in economi c argument,” Galbraith was an economist and public figure whose analyses followin g his defection from neoclassical economic theories generated wide inter est from those seeking to balance the public good with private interests ( xiii ). Especially for “institutionalists”—those economists who look to hu man-designed institutions as primary shapers of economic and human activity—Galb raith’s writings provided a welcome contrast to neoclassical theories that assu med that individuals act rationally to maximize utility and companies natura lly attempt to maximize profit. Institutional economics promised instead to “discer n in the variety of institutional situations impinging upon individuals the chief sou rce of differences in the content of their behavior” (Hamilton 314, 318).15

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115 By decentering the control over the shape of educat ional institutions from individual educators to economic forces, Galbraith contributed to a posthuman understanding of the place of individuals within la rger systems. But Galbraith was unwilling to deny agency to individuals totally. Hi s approach recognized that “institutions are social arrangements capable of ch ange rather than obstinate natural phenomena” and, therefore, held out the pos sibility of agency even as it emphasized the primary structural role of social in stitutions (Hamilton 318). In many ways, this is a prescient view of the dialecti cal relationship between humanism and posthumanism. I believe this short review of institutional econom ic theory provides a useful balance to the following discussion on the s way of market forces over contemporary institutions of higher learning (and, in fact, helps to explain their ascendancy). Some writers are indeed fond of report ing the commodification of higher education as an unassailable “natural phenom ena,” predicting that despite faculty resistance, “market forces will have a stro nger say” (Oblinger and Verville 156). But the nature of institutions of higher educ ation, and of organizations in general, as “social arrangements capable of change” provides hope that the commercial relations that characterize the modern u niversity can be refashioned without abandoning the university’s need for econom ic survival, and without abandoning ideals of intellectual and civic engagem ent. And I believe service learning can be an important component of this rene wal, but only if educators understand the ways in which service activities wit hin the university have already been subsumed by the logic of the market.

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116 That the modern university’s participation in the k nowledge economy is economically driven is a given. As the editors of Capitalizing Knowledge have stated plainly, the “transformation of the universi ties from institutions of cultural preservation to institutions for the creation of ne w knowledge” is “due to external pressures arising from constriction in government f unding for academic research accompanied by the growing awareness of the practic al uses of academic knowledge” (Etzkowitz et al. 1–2). 16 Critiques of the state of higher education in the knowledge economy have not directly addressed t he role of service learning, however. Stanley Aronowitz’s The Knowledge Factory for instance, made no mention of the service-learning movement, although it does discuss at length higher education’s reduction to the “training [of] young people for specialized occupations for the corporate job markets” under th e auspice of “vocationalization” (17). Although service learning helps fulfill the mission of the corporatized university, it is uncommon for even fully praisewor thy assessments of the corporatized university to mention service learning In 2002, for instance, the U.S. Southern Growth Policies Board published Innovation U.: New University Roles in a Knowledge Economy a collection of case studies documenting the economic impact of U.S. universities that engaged i n university-industry partnerships. The authors of this text limited part icipation in the knowledge economy to activities that contribute to “industria l innovation and performance” through applied research, that provide vocational t raining to “human capital,” that enable “technology transfer,” and that foster entre preneurism (Tornatzky et al.

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117 16). But service learning made no appearance in any of their case studies (which is possibly simply a discursive effect related to t he conventional opposition of the sciences and the humanities identified by Spanos). But it’s not as if service learning could not have been incorporated into thei r model of the knowledge economy. Service-learning projects could easily qua lify as what they called “extension activities”—activities in which academic expertise allows businesses to make “optimal or novel use of existing knowledge ” (Tornatzky et al. 17). The lack of reference to “service learning” in Innovation U is surprising given that Stanford University is one of the twelve schools profiled in Innovation U Since the 1980s, Stanford has made service learni ng an integral part of its educational and administrative structure, and is ho me to the highly visible Haas Center for Public Service. The association of Stanf ord with excellence in service learning is such that it is not uncommon to hear ed ucators refer to the model of service learning in which students write as their service to the community (by producing documents for local organizations; as opp osed to writing about their service) as the “Stanford model for service-learnin g” (Bowdon and Scott 8). In the same year Innovation U. was published, Stanford was even recognized by US News and World Report as the number one university in the country for se rvice learning (Cho). Such oversights are admittedly comm on and ideologically motivated. They are, however, poor indicators of th e impact that service learning has in the posthuman knowledge economy. Aronowitz has argued that faculty in the new corpor atized university do not work primarily to advance their disciplines or to e ducate students, but to produce

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118 “useful knowledge, which can be measured by the amo unt of grant money, commercial applications, or critical recognition th ey receive in appropriate circles and which may enhance the institution’s prestige” ( 159). Faculty are, in short, measured as machines in terms of their productivity Aronowitz persuasively traces how universities have succumbed to demands f or the “vocationalization of education” by “introducing vocational courses into the curriculum, and encouraging internships—often coded as ‘experientia l learning’—aimed at inducing employers to hire their graduates” (127, 1 60). It is possible that vocationalism—now commonly code d as “service learning”—continues to justify the academy’s defere nce to market forces while also contributing to the university’s ability to pl ace graduates in jobs. It is one way of claiming the humanistic high ground provided in the term “service,” while yielding to the posthuman confluence between commer cial and educational interests. Having adopted the commercial model of a n economy in which knowledge “enables us to achieve measurable outcome s, such as a financial profit . or a credential that has strong import ance in the marketplace . the academy has difficulty affirming the autonomy of kn owledge apart from its market value” (Gould 24). This narrowed focus has led to the reduction in fun ding of, or the outright cutting of, less marketable programs, often under t he rubric of developing “excellence” in limited areas. This “explicitly bus iness discourse of excellence” actually works to “shape institutions of higher edu cation so that they will more efficiently serve as conduits for meeting the needs of local, national, and

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119 transnational corporate interests” (Downing et al. 9). The shift toward developing excellence, Bill Readings writes in The University in Ruins is an empty marketing strategy that attempts to “overcome the problem of the question of value across disciplines, since excellence is [supposedly] the c ommon denominator of good research in all fields” (24). The lack of any fixed standard of judgment does not deter the marketing of higher education, however. A s Wesley Shumar wrote in College for Sale: A Critique of the Commodification of Higher Education : If [education] could be sold, a demand could be cre ated for it. Consumers could be found, or invented. This increased the ima ge-producing—public relations, advertising, market research, etc.—funct ions of the university dramatically. College degrees, subject to market fo rces, started to be managed in new ways. (83) How universities market themselves, and the constit uencies they court, thus become significant forces in university curric ulum and policy decisions. Shumar noted that many of the traditional comprehen sive liberal arts colleges that survived the transition to the “instrumental l ogic of the marketplace” were able to do so because they “developed a hotel manag ement school, a physical therapy program or some other form of practical edu cation” that could be marketed to the community (94). It is unsurprising that many modern universities “produce new specialized degrees and certificates i n order to make buyers desire the product” (Shumar 83). Such discourse openly acknowledges that education i s a “product or service; something to be sold to the public.” The a lternative to embracing the new

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120 “entrepreneurial university” is to raise tuition, a choice few schools can afford to make in the increasingly competitive environment of higher education. The emergence of education as commodity also means a sh arp increase in the role of marketing in higher education. Just as market se gmentation in consumer goods led companies to produce “specialized product s for smaller target audiences in the hope of selling more goods,” highe r education has had to appeal to specific groups of students through targe ted campaigns (Shumar 86). In such a marketplace, schools must become savvy p roducers of knowledge about themselves. As Powell and Snellman have pointed out, “thousands of polytechnic schools worldwide . h ave changed their names to universities. Such ‘upgrading’ is part of a movemen t to signal membership in a knowledge economy” (216). It is possible that the a doption of service learning pedagogies, especially for elite schools seeking th e patronage of practicallyminded consumers but wary of associating themselves too strongly with vocationalism, is yet another attempt to develop ma rketable excellence. Service Learning in the Knowledge Economy “I don't believe that questions about social struct ures, ideology, and social justice are automatically raised by com munity service. From my own experience, I am quite sure they are no t.” —Bruce Herzberg, “Community Service and Critical Te aching” Although the purposes for implementing service lear ning are necessarily diverse, in the most general sense, service-learnin g programs offer a way to satisfy concurrently the public’s desire for the pr actical application of academic

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121 knowledge, the student’s desire for professional ex perience, the university’s desire for community outreach, and the faculty’s de sire for social justice and professional distinction. In a less admirable manne r, it can also provide students with a type of flattering self-knowledge, exploitin g service to the other as a source of “life-changing” moments and “spiritual renewal” (Albert 186; hooks 183). Such moments of personal renewal might be seen as an ind ividualized response to the crisis in humanism. In other words, to combat the s ense of decenteredness attendant to posthumanism, students are being offer ed the chance to connect at a personal level with other human beings, addressin g systemic problems at the level of the individual. Academics as well may be guilty of embracing servic e learning as a flexible commodity in the knowledge economy—an effi cient means to satisfy all three traditional areas of academic evaluation (tea ching, research, and service). Multi-tasking academics can deploy service-learning pedagogies in the classroom, present scholarship on service-learning topics in specialized journals and at conferences, and make good on their personal and professional commitments to community engagement, all the while outsourcing the majority of the service to their students and enjoying the “cou ntercultural” reputation still associated with experiential education (Morton 279) Ideally, service learning allows “various knowledge s [to] be brought to bear in problem-solving activities without the priv ileging of academic knowledge above the others” (Cushman, “New” 211). But the pri vileging of academic knowledge seems a mild threat in today’s corporatiz ed university. More likely, the

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122 knowledges engaged will be limited to those that “m ake money, study money, or attract money” (Press and Washburn 52). Part of the ease with which service learning can be co-opted by market values lies in t he similarity between the discourse of advocates of service learning and thos e of the corporatized university. In What Business Wants from Higher Education Diana Oblinger and Anne-Lee Verville reported that business leaders wa nt flexible workers with stronger communication skills, the ability to work in teams, an understanding of globalization and its implications, the ability to work with people of diverse backgrounds, and adequate ethics training (22). These correlate well with the stated objectives of many service–learning advocates (especially the latter two qualities abov e—multiculturalism and moral education), and with the common practices of servic e-learning classrooms, which are almost uniformly collaborative. Oblinger and Ve rville also stress the need of businesses for a pool of potential employees with “ practical experience” (90). In fact, the authors explicitly called for pedagogies that provide “real-world exposure” through “internship[s] or cooperative exp erience[s]” that connect students to the culture of their future employers ( 92). Such appeals sound similar to those made by academics who promote service lear ning by claiming that “practical experience enhances learning” (Zlotkowsk i 24). Even the insistence among scholars for service learning to “address soc ial issues important to community members” is not that far removed from the corporate “obsession” in “delivering what is of value to the client, not nec essarily what is of value to the producer” (Cushman, “Public” 329; Oblinger and Verv ille 77).

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123 In order to survive in the competitive market for p roducts and services, modern corporations have adopted several strategies that reduce costs and maintain a flexible workforce, including downsizing outsourcing, economies of scale, and strategic alliances with other businesse s. But the strategy most important to understanding the role of service in t he posthuman knowledge economy is the acquisition of beneficial externalities Externalities are, put simply, the “effect of a business transaction that benefits or hurts persons other than those who directly take part in the transactio n” (Baumol and Blinder 269). Beneficial externalities are, in the crassest sense external conditions that improve a company’s profit margin in a business tra nsaction. Subsidies and other economic incentives that reduce the cost of doing b usiness would qualify, as would less legitimate ways of avoiding the true cos t of delivering a product or service (such as avoiding the cost of disposing of hazardous waste by dumping it illegally). By getting external entities to absorb the material costs of bringing a product to market, corporations can maintain market share and remain competitive without changing other aspects of their business model. The ability of corporations to outsource their rese arch and training needs to university faculty is a beneficial externality t hat increases the profit available through transactions with actual customers. More im portantly, profit can be generated in a knowledge economy through the commer cialization of intellectual property rights made available to corporations thro ugh industry-university research partnerships (Tornatzky et al. 17). And it is not only corporations who recognize the value of externalities. This fact was brought to my attention quite

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124 vividly when, after contacting a local non-profit i n hopes of arranging a servicelearning project, I discovered that my email had be en forwarded with this altered subject line: “Opportunity for FREE LABOR!”. In eve ryday language, a beneficial externality is “simply a good deed for which the do er of the deed is not paid, or not paid adequately, for the benefit he or she prod uces” (Baumol and Blinder 270). In other words, it is service. One might point out that students engaged in servic e learning do benefit from their association with the organizations they work with, primarily in the form of knowledge and experience gained. But such knowle dge exchanges are just another example of how corporate models of reciproc ity mirror the ideals of academia and community found in service-learning pe dagogies. Lost in such exchanges is what Michael Brub has called the “ve ry ideal of independent intellectual inquiry, the kind of inquiry whose out comes cannot be known in advance and cannot be measured in terms of efficien cy or productivity” (21). It is questionable whether service-learning pedagogies th at emphasize the pragmatic benefits accruing to organizations and individuals in knowledge exchanges can truly prepare students to achieve what the Associat ion of American Colleges and Universities has identified as the goal of a libera l education: “to live responsible, productive, and creative lives in a dramatically ch anging world” (“About AACU”). It is, of course, possible that service-learning op portunities can be structured that do not merely cede educational goal s to professional goals. The inclusion of critical reflection as a necessary par t of any service-learning experience, for instance, can draw attention to lar ger social issues by de-

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125 naturalizing the inequalities and ideologies that s tudents encounter. Without such reflection, Bruce Herzberg has written, “students w ill not critically question a world that seems natural, inevitable, given; instea d, they will strategize about their position within it” (“Community” 317). But th e posthuman emphasis on one’s position in a network of humanity may move students to continually assess their education, not in terms of an abstract rubric of in tellectual value, but in terms of the positions and connections made available to the m through their schoolwork. Besides producing knowledge desired by the communit y, service learning also produces knowledge about the university (about it being a good community member, for instance) that can be used to gain adva ntage in a competitive marketplace. Outreach efforts are not unique to uni versities, of course. Through its Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SAT OP), NASA provides to small businesses engineers who will attempt to appl y their engineering expertise to solve problems impeding the business’ financial success. Though provided free of charge, these efforts are not merely philan thropic. As one reporter commented: “For all its altruism, the 12-year-old S ATOP also serves as a public relations campaign, demonstrating to the public tha t NASA has worthy effects outside the confines of space exploration” (Rexrode ). The present traction of the corporate social respon sibility (CSR) movement, where corporations are expected to give b ack to their communities, and the increasing popularity of fair-trade and soc ially responsible goods, suggest that commitment to the public good, and the humanism that serves as the foundation of this public good, is itself a mar ketable commodity in the

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126 knowledge economy. Some analysts even consider CSR a form of “global brand insurance” which provides a “competitive strategy b ecause [brands] serve as profit platforms that differentiate even commoditylike products and services” (Werther and Chandler 317). As institutions of high er learning continue to reach out to global markets, such protection of the “inta ngible and vulnerable” capital embodied in their university brands will become inc reasingly valuable (Werther and Chandler 321). Not only do service learners par ticipate in the knowledge economy by providing expertise to the local communi ty and by producing new knowledge for private, governmental, and corporate entities, service learning also extends university brands within the global educati on marketplace. Ranking Service: Serving Rankings “No one can mistake what the modern university stan ds for: service to society.” —Eric Gould, The University in a Corporate Culture College rankings such as those produced by US News and World Report and The Washington Monthly are highly contested markers of higher education’s entrenchment within the knowledge economy. These ra nkings have received heavy criticism, both from academic and popular sou rces critical of the formulas used to determine placement, as well as from univer sity administrators who, aware that the “flow of tuition dollars is affected by popular rankings,” feel pressured to “behave in ways that, collectively, ma y damage” all institutions of higher education (Goldin B24; Qtd. in Engell and Da ngerfield 35). Although originating in meritocratic intentions to “mitigate or even to negate the power of

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127 wealth and privilege,” rankings have become a “cont roversial but nonetheless authoritative” system that threatens to draw resour ces away from the core missions of educational institutions (Engell and Da ngerfield 34; Goldin B24). Even though rankings are considered only one of the indicators of school quality, their impact is powerful because they are, unfortunately, “becoming the only indicators in popular circulation” (Engell and Dan gerfield 35). So, while corporations and other community organizations have become dependent upon universities for knowledge services necessary to st ay competitive in the global market, universities concerned with maintaining the ir “brand” have become beholden to the knowledge circulated about them by the ranking industry and to the market logics that guide such systems. What types of engagement, one might ask, do such cl assifications recognize and encourage? In an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education Rebecca Goldin critiqued rankings by the Washington Monthly She noted that one-third of the Washington Monthly score is based on “community service,” and that this third is composed of three measures: “the percentage of students in Army or Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC); the percentage of alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps; and the perce ntage of those students on Federal Work-Study doing community projects” (Goldi n B24). Observing that schools will attempt to increase their rankings bec ause the “flow of tuition dollars is affected by popular rankings,” she asked a logic al question: “To raise their rankings, will universities encourage ROTC particip ation?” The models of service and the ideal of the public good that rankings prom ote are thus severely limited.

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128 Ultimately, it is within the classification systems themselves that educational value is created. Oblinger and Verville have explained the nature of quality in the modern market thusly: First, quality is perceived. It is based on the cus tomer’s judgment, not one’s own. Second, the quality of the product is im portant, but most competitive situations will be won or lost on the q uality of the services that are associated with the product rather than the pro duct itself. Third, quality is relative, not absolute. (13) Thus, rankings and classifications that compare ins titutions establish a hierarchy devoid of any substantive measure of quality. This is a particularly posthuman problem of circularity in which the circuit of meas urement has no external referent. Haraway notes that posthumanism is about simulation rather than representation. Representation always points to som e prior object, and its measure is traditionally the faithfulness of the re presentation to the original. But in simulation it is more important to be internally consistent. The establishment of educational value in posthuman culture thus makes u se of rankings to initiate a feedback loop that restricts the ability of institu tions to establish value outside of the network created by rankings. Although service learning has been a part of rankin gs before, it might be considered troubling, based on the overall impact o f rankings, that a separate community engagement classification now exists. In 2006, 76 U.S. colleges and universities were selected by the Carnegie Foundati on for the Advancement of Teaching for its new community engagement classific ation. This is an “elective”

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129 classification not based on national data, like oth er rankings, but on documentation submitted by each school that describ es its engagement, broadly conceived, with the community. The Carnegie Foundat ion described its effort spiritedly as “an exciting move in Carnegie's work to extend and refine the classification of colleges and universities . I t represents a significant affirmation of the importance of community engagement in the ag enda of higher education” (“Carnegie”). I submit, however, that such an affir mation is another capitulation to market forces and represents universities’ need to differentiate themselves in a higher education market in which the content and qu ality of the curriculum takes a backseat to relative comparisons associated with economic measures. By reducing the diversity of school curricula and disc iplinary strengths to “strictly numerical evaluations,” these judgments about acade mic quality trivialize the work of educators, and, quite often, represent litt le more than the size of a university’s endowment (Etzkowitz et al. 34). Service can be considered a marketing effort that p roves the utility of a college degree by supplying the community with prac tical benefits provided by degree-earners. Administrators are increasingly pre ssured to sell both their own school and the very idea of higher education. As Er ic Gould observes: “The [modern] mission statement is like an advertisement ” (5). But such advertisements do not necessarily represent the pri orities of administrators or faculty. Although service is quite visibly included in higher education mission statements, the “importance of service is seldom as evident in their work as are teaching and research” (Bringle and Hatcher 273). A s the University of South

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130 Florida has admitted, their community engagement ac tivities are “integral to providing students with work experience and establi shing a positive presence in the community, which in turn can attract future stu dents” (Booth). On their own, commitments to service in the agendas of institutions of higher education, as visible in their mission state ments, have little power to attract or repel students. As Gould has argued, “[s ]tudents do not choose colleges by comparing mission statements because th ere is little to differentiate between the various philosophies they contain” (4). But if mission statements, and the commitments to service that they contain, a re themselves poor means of differentiation in the academic market, the commerc ial value of service must be constructed elsewhere. As suggested above, the abil ity of local community service to attract future students establishes its commercial value. But this only works for local consumers. In order for service to influence the global clientele of posthuman universities, one needs initiatives like the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification. Unfortunately, such rankings do not ask hard questi ons about the nature of the community engagement in which the university participates, or about the effects of economic partnerships on the educational experiences of students. They are committed to measuring the “quality of the services that are associated with the product rather than the product itself” (O blinger and Verville 13). This can be seen in the broad definition of what counts as community engagement in such classifications. The press release from USF th at announced their newly bestowed Carnegie classification gave as an example of its community

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131 engagement the “launch of a multimillion partnershi p with Silicon Valley research and technology giant SRI International, and [receip t of] $8 million to build a Florida Center of Excellence in biotechnology” (Boo th). Here, a traditional industry-university partnership of the entrepreneur ial variety focused on developing excellence in a business-friendly discip line is recast as a form of community service. As Raymond Williams wrote, community is a “warmly persuasive word” that “never seems to be used unfavourably, and neve r to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term” (76, 66). It appea rs that service may have attained this status as well. Visitors to the Unive rsity of South Florida Tampa campus in spring, 2007, encountered two signs poste d repeatedly across campus. The first sign stated “USF Breaks All Recor ds: $310,000,000 Research Awards”; the other stated “Carnegie Foundation Sele cts USF for Community Engagement Classification.” Considering the broad d efinition of what is counted as community engagement, it’s not clear that these signs say anything substantially different. Re-establishing the Posthuman Value of Service “It is time all reading and writing teachers situat e their activities within the contexts of the larger profession as well as the co ntexts of economic and political concerns. We have much to gain working together and much to lose working alone.” –James Berlin, Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures For English teachers, the term service is especially provocative. Gary Olson notes in the preface to his edited collection Rhetoric and Composition as

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132 Intellectual Work that the teaching of writing has historically bee n considered a “service discipline” with no research agenda or tra dition of intellectual inquiry of its own ( xii ). Because the historic division of U.S. English de partments into tenured literature professors and untenured (nowada ys, mostly adjunct) writing teachers was a partial consequence of the financial difficulty of staffing small classes of student writers with well-paid professor s, resistance to being a service discipline is, in a larger sense, resistance to bei ng compelled by economic forces. It is a retreat to the humanism of individu al choice and self-determination. But Berlin’s statement above regarding reading and writing teachers is true for all educators attempting to work in the presence of mar ket forces that sanction higher education’s role as a credentialing and rese arch service under the auspices of community engagement. By viewing higher education within its political and economic contexts, we can begin to un derstand the ways in which posthuman educators “are always already implicated in service relationships with extra-disciplinary constituencies” (Mahala and Swil ky 627). In response to Williams’ statement mentioned earlie r that community is never given a “positive opposing or distinguishing term,” Joseph Harris has suggested that there is such a word: public Whereas community is most often used to identify a group of people (a marketing seg ment, if you will), Harris has argued that public refers to a “kind of space and process, a point of contact that needs both to be created and continuously maintaine d” (109). Such a distinction draws attention to both the necessarily political n ature of community

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133 engagement, and the need to continuously reform the institutions that govern our social interactions to better support our visions o f responsible citizenship. One small step in bringing our institutions into cl oser accord with the ideals of the public good is to make such work visi ble within the university system. In its application for the Carnegie Foundat ion’s Community Engagement Classification, USF admitted that its policies for promotion and tenure do not explicitly acknowledge university-community engagem ent activities, research, and scholarship (“Application” 19). Without such in ternal support, the servicelearning movement risks becoming beholden to those types of service valued by market forces and corporate sponsors, and risks los ing “many of its best practitioners through the failure of the academy as a whole to recognize and reward their work” (Zlotkowski 24). The broad interest in service learning is, and alw ays will be, part of the economic structure of higher education. In his fore word to Moving Beyond Academic Discourse —Christian Weisser’s book on composition studies an d the public sphere—Gary Olson reports that a chief acqui sitions editor of a major textbook publisher visited him, as well as several other senior faculty in the field of rhetoric and composition, to determine “where th e field was heading,” in hopes of anticipating the next big thing (“Foreword” ix ). In response, Olson mentioned a few promising areas to the editor, but . saved until last the area that that I thought would most likely lead us all into the new decade: public writing, especially as it is linked to service learning. [The editor’s] eyes immediately lit up (I could almost see the

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134 dollar signs shining in his pupils), and he comment ed excitedly, “This is incredible. Practically everyone that I’ve consulte d has said the exact same thing.” (“Foreword” ix ) The challenge for service-learning advocates in tod ay’s institutions of higher learning is to establish the value of service learn ing without reverting to economic calculation of its value merely as a boon to a stud ent’s ability to obtain employment, as a beneficial externality to local or ganizations, or as a promising market niche for textbook publishers. The challenge is also to not retreat from the networked social ecologies of modern universities i nto an introverted humanistic rationale for service. As Peter Mortensen has written, educators “must go public” because of the ethical obligations we hold to the “publics we serve” (150). In his article “Service Learning and Public Discourse,” Bruce Herz berg says we can satisfy these ethical obligations by using service learning to bridge the “gap between academic investigation, on the one hand, and public discourse and public policy, on the other” (395). At the 1996 convention of CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication) Lester Faigley, in h is Chair’s address, called for academics in English programs to “engage in pub lic discourse” in order to “to stop the decline in publicly supported education,” and such calls have been oft repeated (41). Heeding this call, Herzberg asks his students to dr aw on conversations in the academic, popular, and public spheres in order to “examine and practice public discourse forms but also to figure out how t o bring their academic

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135 knowledge to bear in public argument” (“Public” 399 ). Rather than assume that academic knowledge can easily transfer to public po licy issues, Herzberg’s students question the very possibility of engaging in public policy issues from the academy, recognizing that, more often than not, “pu blic policy follows popular, not academic, opinion” (“Public” 395). Those of us interested in service learning are well -positioned to engage the public, not only as supplicants seeking support for our own agendas, but as collaborators who can engage the public in the main tenance of a democratic polis. One of the risks of academics engaging the p ublic is exactly that one’s message becomes subject to discourses beyond the sc ope of one’s disciplinary interests. In the case of service learning, the dom inant discourse which educators must address is one which limits the valu e of knowledge to its application towards practical and commercial ends, which embraces questionable rankings systems, and which valorizes service as a way of generating market-oriented knowledge about universi ties, teachers, and students. When we engage the public, however, we ma y find that market forces, measured against the vitality of posthuman universi ty-community partnerships dedicated to the public good, are not the unassaila ble formations they presume to be.

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136 Chapter 5 Posthuman (In)Conclusions “The only responsible intellectual is one who is wi red.” --Mark C. Taylor and Esa Saarinen, Imagologies Current scholarship provides us with an understandi ng of posthumanism that is at once both functional for understanding o ur relationship to the increasingly technologically mediated world around us, and theoretical in understanding the human psyche’s attachment to the excesses of humanism. It is born of the personal, professional, and cultural networks taking shape in the posthuman age. In the most superficial sense, posth umanism will always be seen as the blending of human and machine, where in dividuals incorporate into their selves the technological tools previously con sidered separate from the physical body. But it is much more than this. It is the slow and continual recognition of a new kind of identity, a new type o f community, and a new type of relationship with the material world and others in it. Posthumanist views of the relationship between subjects is not an either/or c hoice (human or machine, man or woman, image or text, play or work), but a both/ and proposition which generates hybrids (or, in the traditional humanist view, monstrosities). In order to analyze the possibility of educational practices more responsive to posthumanism, this dissertation has i nterrogated the continuing importance of the body as the site of emergence of the posthuman, as well as

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137 considered how the posthuman is implicated in two e merging phenomena: the increasing presence of video games in education and the widespread adoption of service-learning pedagogies. Video games are common ly associated with the posthuman, as they comprise complex virtual spaces in which players adopt virtual personas, form online communities, and buil d fictional worlds. But service learning, which is generally placed in the humanist tradition, is just as much a response to, and embrasure of, posthumanism. In the end, they are both identity machines, prostheses that allow us to extend our se nse of self in productive ways, establishing networks and feedback loops that allow us to construct who we are in the world in relation to other beings. Th ey are both technologies of the self in the Foucauldian tradition, technologies tha t reveal the constructedness of the self even as they naturalize the individual sub jectivities that emerge form them. The roles of video games and service learning are i mportant for scholars to consider as they investigate the continuing role of posthumanism in the academy. Revealingly, both situate the student outs ide of the traditional university classroom, emphasizing that connectivity with others is a key to learning. One danger of such an emphasis is that st udents will come to see the outside world as merely a tool to further their own personal agendas. Much like the self-reinforcing practices of ego psychology, s ervice learning can leave intact traditional notions of the self (and, thus, the ide ologies that sustain them), and may even leave them stronger than before. This poss ibility has been much analyzed in the case of service-learning, whose cri tics have often questioned the

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138 ability of individual service projects to give stud ents a broad understanding of social structures, of the confluence of power and k nowledge, and of the materiality that makes problems social rather than merely personal. In the case of gaming, most of the academic focus has been on g ames that employ the firstperson perspective, where one gamer assumes the ide ntity of a single player and plays alone, essentially separate from other gamers Scholars might turn their attention to games where players do not assume a si ngle or singular identity and in the future, focus on the social aspects of succe ssful participation in gaming that take place off-screen, such as participation i n guilds. Ideally, a responsible posthumanism can improve the educational value of b oth pedagogical areas while engendering a deeper understanding of the pol itical in student lives. Political Posthumanism “What could be the politics of whatever singularity that is, of a being whose community is mediated not by any condition o f belonging (being red, being Italian, being Communist) nor by the sim ple absence of conditions . but by belonging itself?” – Giorgio Agamben, “The Coming Community” Politics calls on us to build a world in which the one and the many can coexist. But even the notion of constructing a worl d in relation to other beings may carry too much humanist weight for some. As Ann Weinstone writes, such statements may not move far enough away from the “l ogic of elite ownership: ownership of knowledge, land, material and psychic resources, and sociopolitical entitlements” that sustains humanism (25). “Even co ncepts such as consensus and intersubjectivity,” she writes, are “based on o wnership.” In order to break

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139 from this notion of relationships with others as th e ownership of resources to expand individual subjects, posthumanism needs to c ontinue to develop, as Hardt and Negri have noted, an understanding of the things owned in “ common that allows [people] to communicate and act togethe r” ( xv ). The most common misconception about posthumanism is that it is against either humans or humanism. Despite these straw man arguments, post-human does not mean anti-human. Proponents of posthumanis m do not necessarily reject the autonomy of the human subject; rather, t hey acknowledge the multiple subjectivities within that autonomy. It is the clas sic problem of the political coexistence of the one and the many that scholars f rom Aristotle to Hegel to Deleuze and Guattari to Hardt and Negri have addres sed. This has always been a concern of those who would identify as humanists and it continues to be a concern of posthumanists. As Mark Taylor and Esa Sa arinen write in Imagologies The fundamental philosophical problem in the West i s the problem of the one and the many. From its beginnings in ancient Gr eece, western philosophy has identified being with oneness or uni ty and non-being with manyness or plurality. To be is to be one. . On e of the most significant marks of the advent of modernity and its extension in postmodernity is a reversal of the relative value attributed to the on e and the many. In contemporary culture, oneness and unity are regarde d as non-being, while manyness and plurality are believed to characterize being.” (“Shift” 2)

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140 The many offshoots of posthumanism attempt to place multiplicity at the core of this new mode of being, to allow for a whatever bei ng that does not require a stable core of selfhood, and which can find identit y in the unstable, flickering world of digital signifiers. It is within this inst ability that we might see the posthuman project as part of the postmodern project and it is this instability that poses a similar challenge to each. The challenge i s to not let this lack of unity translate into immobility; in order to continue the posthumanist project, we “must prevent the absence of destination from creating a sense of purposelessness” (Taylor and Saarinen, Imagologies “Net” 12). This working through of ambivalence should be part of any definition of cri tical technological literacy applicable to the posthuman era. Admittedly, posthumanists are sometimes prone to ut opian views of the possibility of a social revolution, to a coming com munity built on the ability of communication technologies to hasten a “democracy o n a global scale” that brings together “radical differences, singularities that can never be synthesized in an identity” (Hardt and Negri xi 355). Posthumanists “want to prevent violence by undermining notions of a superior, self-willing, self-possessed person and its march toward ontological and epistemological transc endence” (Weinstone 4). But the current war in the Middle East bolstered by the quest to bring democracy to the world should give pause to those who think that an increasingly connected world will automatically result in fewer conflicts, greater understanding, and social justice.

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141 As Baudrillard warns in “Prophylaxis and Virulence, ” all “integrated and hyperintegrated systems . tend towards the extr eme constituted by immunodeficiency. Seeking to eliminate all external aggression, they secrete their own internal virulence . and thus tend to self destruct” (35). The more we’re connected, the more likely that a single brea kdown in one area will affect all the others. While this connectivity means that one action in a network (or a series of connected networks in an integrated syste m) may have an effect on any or all of it’s component parts, the network itself often attempts to compensate to avoid collapse. Witness the 2008 breakdown in the sub-prime mortgage arena. When the investment lender Bear Stearns seemed to b e in financial trouble due to overinvestment in risky sub-prime mortgages that lost their value due to a drop in home values, the U.S. government stepped in to p rotect the economy. According to the Christian Science Monitor the U.S. government “saved Bear Stearns from bankruptcy because a collapse of the i nvestment bank would have reverberated throughout the economy – increasing th e risk of lower incomes, lower home values, and unemployment for ordinary Am ericans” (Grier 1). Now, legislators are struggling to find ways to ensure t hat the “weaknesses of a single firm does not again threaten the whole economy” (Gr ier 1). But the very mechanism through which such companies gain access to global financial markets and flows of international capital are the same ones that expose them to the threat of systemic collapse. One cannot be plug ged in and unplugged at the same time.

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142 The realization that the interconnectedness of the modern world exposes us to increased risk would come as a shock to those who originally designed the most important network today: the internet. In 1964 when Paul Baran first considered possible structures for what would event ually become the internet, he rejected the idea of a centralized network in which all users connected to one central node. According to Baran, such a design wou ld not be “redundant enough” and would thus be vulnerable because commun ication could easily be severed by the destruction of a single node (quoted in Barabsi 144). Rather, he advocated a distributed network where “even if some nodes went down, alternative paths maintained the connection between the rest of the nodes" (quoted in Barabsi 144). Although his ideas were i nitially resisted by industry and military leaders, they became the foundation fo r the internet’s current distributed structure. The crises to which modern networks are susceptible are not restricted to economic structures, but to cultural ones as well, including 21st century outbreaks of war and genocide. If posthumanists want to preve nt such crises, they need to assess whether such events truly depend on the conc epts of self that are the target of much posthumanist criticism, and consider the possibility of emergent posthuman justifications for violent and unjust act ions. Relieved of the typical human range of bodily experience and situated inste ad within the more numerous yet seemingly less substantial virtual rel ations among posthumans, it is possible that we become more vulnerable to the p olitics of fear and anxiety. As Baudrillard warns, it is only in the “hyperprotecte d space [that] the body loses all

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143 its defences” (35). Posthuman criticism of the subj ect may be too concerned with the humanist question of “Who is the subject?” and not concerned enough with the posthumanist question of “How is the subject?,” a question that would move us from questions of having to questions of being a nd doing. We must be wary of narratives that claim to be prog ressive by inverting hierarchies rather than translating them. For insta nce, John Carpenter's 2001 science fiction film, Ghosts of Mars focuses on the operation of a small military unit under the command of a female officer on the p lanet Mars. In the movie, the planet Mars is presented as being a matriarchy in w hich the government and its RSAs ("repressive state apparatuses," a la Althusse r) are run by women. While this might seem initially to be a progressive premi se, what occurs is a reversal of the sexes of the subjects without a change in hiera rchical gender narratives. The men represent women and the women represent men, ch anging the positionality within the structure of gender relations, but witho ut a significant change in the structure itself. In this case, the technology of g ender continues unabated, and women are its fictional beneficiaries. In this film, women engage in a complete range of s wearing, fighting, and other forms of physical and verbal assault. Men are subservient and referred to as "breeders" since their primary value is as possi ble mates for the women in charge. The main difference is that the men incessa ntly offer sexual favors to their bosses without intimidation or coercion. Seem ingly, sexual harassment complaints are unlikely since sexual relations are being initiated by those not in positions of power. The Ghosts of Mars represents a male fantasy in which

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144 subordinates actively pursue sexual relations with figures of authority and in which these authorities, instead of being implicate d in sexual coercion, are free to choose from among their subordinates for their sexu al partners. Ghosts of Mars does not represent an alternate social order, but o ur present one infused with pornographic sensibilities. If we are not careful, the same type of inversion can occur with the human/machine binary, resulting in a hyper-celebration of the cyborg. In our attempts to supplant the humanist framework in place in society, it is important to realize that, as Thomas Foster has written, “posthumanism is as likely to serve conservative agendas as progressive ones” ( xii ). The weakening of the inclusive narratives of humanism may actually m ake it harder for groups to identify with each other. And it seems possible tha t corporate interests have taken advantage of the posthuman era to turn classr ooms into machinic factories for commercial knowledge and exploitable labor. In Democracy Matters Cornel West claims that contemporary imperialism is compos ed of three related “antidemocratic dogmas”: free-market fundamentalism aggressive militarism, and escalating authoritarianism (3). Technology ena bles the acolytes of these dogmas as much as it enables those who question the m; both rely on the communicative, economic, and cultural networks of m eaning transmitted through ideological systems. Whether posthuman educators em brace these doctrines or challenge them remains to be seen. The opportunity to produce citizens who are critica lly technologically literate is perhaps the greatest promise of posthum an education, an act capable

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145 of releasing the “liberatory, ethicopolitical poten tials” of posthumanism (Weinstone 20). Understanding the range of possible social structures and forms of relation as technologies which can be adopted in order to produce different modes of being is a useful practice. But understand ing that such adoption is not always a matter of individual choice is a sobering observation that should temper our embrace of the more utopian views of a posthuma n future. As our machinic consciousnesses overlap and approach indivisibility with other machines, posthumans will hopefully find themselves increasin gly unable and unwilling to sink into enclaves of virtual community disconnecte d from the larger social world. The broad implications for such separatism are alr eady visible in the ongoing state of international conflict and the var ious neuroses of capitalism. Rethinking our relation to our political systems, t o our environment, to our economies, to our technologies, to our work, to our leisure, and to other whatever beings is an unfinished, and ultimately unfinishabl e, project. The coming community is posthuman, but it may not be posthuman enough.

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146 Notes 1. Digital images of these two magazine covers are available online through vers/1982.html and vers/2007.html 2. Games have always called upon players to be and to do. The title of this chapter is a reference to a popular series of games from the Sierra Online company called the “Quest for Glory” series, the fi rst of which was titled “So You Want to Be a Hero” (emphasis added). This chapter focuses on the doing that accompanies these virtual modes of being. 3. The terms “video game enthusiasts” and “teachers ” conceal as much as they reveal. The forum consisted of Jane Avrich, an auth or and English teacher; Steven Johnson, an author and Distinguished Writer in Residence at NYU’s Department of Journalism; Raph Koster, author and v ideo game designer who led the design of MMORPGs such as Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online ; and Thomas De Zengotita, a teacher and contributing edi tor of Harper’s Magazine From the descriptions given at the start of the art icle, it’s unclear which two of the last three individuals comprise the “video game ent husiasts.” The forum was moderated by Bill Wasik, a senior editor of Harper’s Magazine 4. Gamers and game designers are related but separa te communities of practice, and therefore the genres that each value and the co nventions they follow will differ. In this chapter, I focus on the genres that gamers produce. It should be noted, however, that the documents produced by game designers represent another promising site of inquiry into the relation ship between video games and technical writing. The most significant document to be looked at is likely the series of game “bibles” that developers use to orga nize and formalize ideas regarding characters, settings, quests, and other e lements of the game world they are creating. The ongoing revision of the pers istent virtual worlds of MMORPGs represents a significant challenge that suc h documents help manage. 5. As gamers have taken greater roles as producers of game content, as games have given players greater control over their avata rs, and as gamers have participated in more game-related activities outsid e of the bounds of the game itself, the intellectual property statements built into end user license agreements

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147 have drawn increased scrutiny, especially due to th eir uneven enforcement. For an introduction to the tensions between corporate a nd individual property rights over game content, see T. L. Taylor’s “Whose Game I s This Anyway?” and Raph Koster’s “Declaring the Rights of Players.” 6. The role of narrative in online games is heighte ned by the fact that gamers, especially when playing as members of a guild or ot her persistent social group, often use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) syste ms that are separate from the gaming software to communicate with other players. A 2006 survey of World of Warcraft players who were members of guilds found t hat “Roughly 70% of the interviewees said they chatted regularly with their guild mates about topics ranging from game strategy to real-life personal is sues” (Williams et al. 351). Such work does not even begin to calculate the amou nt of story-telling that likely goes on outside the game as well. 7. Games often use technical texts as in-game plot elements. For instance, the Ultima series, the longest-running computer role-pl aying game franchise, has as a recurring plot element a book known as the “Codex of Ultimate Wisdom,” which is a book containing all knowledge about the fictio nal game world—a comprehensive help file, if you will. It is no surp rise to find, then, that a gamer has created a web site that collects technical info rmation regarding the Ultima series of games, and called his site “The Other Cod ex.” 8. The PTA web site is no longer available online, as the guild has disbanded, but portions of the site can still be accessed thro ugh the Internet Archive Wayback Machine at*/http://www.povartarewa The title of this web site, Povar-Tarew Alliance, is just one interpr etation of the PTA acronym, which began as the Povarian Trades Association. Whe n the Povar server on which the guild operated merged with another server named Tarew Marr to form the Xev server, the PTA changed the meaning of its acronym to Povar-Tarew Artisans in order to attract artisans from the disc ontinued Tarew server (later, when the focus of the group shifted away from craft ing trade items, the acronym was re-interpreted as the Povar-Tarew Alliance). Th e PTA was active between 1999 and March of 2005, a reasonably long life when one considers that 21% of guilds present at any given time on similar servers disappear after only one month (Williams et al. 349). 9. Interestingly, one of the examples that Miller o ffers of a typical situation to which an individual might respond in a generic fash ion is of “players instructing novice in a game” (157). 10. The instances of cross-over between games and “ real life” are too abundant to address here. In-game marriages, face-to-face pl ayer conferences, hyperrepresentational avatars, the emergence of professi onal gaming, and the

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148 existence of gaming-based services such as Internet Gaming Entertainment, where virtual currency, items, and whole accounts c an be bought, represent just a few of the ways that games exceed the virtual wor lds from which they emerge, and players engage in out-of-game activities throug h which acceptable game play is defined. 11. Gamers who seek employment as beta testers of v ideo games may be considering the gaming industry as a career choice, or they may simply be seeking the cultural capital that comes with having advanced knowledge of new games. Either way, they can become involved with in dustry-level technical communities at a young age. Online sites such as ww have even emerged to help “all those interested in playi ng games for a living” find jobs as beta testers. 12. In EQ, although death is not permanent, players risk the loss of experience levels and abilities when they die in the game, as well as the functionality embodied in any of the equipment they were carrying at the time. If they do not retrieve their bodies within a set time limit, thei r bodies disappear from the game, and the items they are carrying are lost. 13. The DigiPen Institute of Technology also offers degrees with more traditional names such as Bachelor’s degrees in computer scienc e, computer engineering and production animation. 14. The research related to service-learning is ext ensive and can be found within the traditional publications of many disciplines, a s well as specialized journals such as the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning and the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement Good online sites to visit in order to gain an appreciation of the scope of the institu tional support behind service learning would be the National Service Learning Cle aringhouse at, and Campus Compact at Many states also have thei r own Campus Compact initiatives. 15. Institutional economics was named so by Walton Hamilton in 1919 in “The Institutional Approach to Economic Theory.” This bu ilt on previous work by Thorstein Veblen and John Commons on the role of co llective action in economics. It is commonly called the old institutional economics, as opposed to the new institutional economics associated with later scholars such as Ronald Coase, Douglass North, Oliver Williamson, and Claud e Mnard. 16. The link between service learning and the pract ical application of knowledge runs deep. The image accompanying Edward Zlotkowski ’s 1996 article titled “Linking Service-Learning and the Academy” depicts five individuals in professional attire using saws, hammers, and boards to build an addition to a

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149 school building. This associates service, even in r eference to the academy, with practical needs and vocations ( shelter and construction respectively) (21).

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150 Works Cited “About.” Campus Compact. 2007. http://www.compact.o rg/about/ (3 Feb 2007). “About EQTC.” EQ Traders Corner. http://www.eqtrade page.php?article=g1&menustr=020000000000 (12 Jan 20 07). Agamben, Giorgio. The Coming Community Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993. Albert, Gail. “Intensive Service-Learning Experienc es.” Service-learning in higher education: Concepts and practices Ed. Barbara Jacoby). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996. 182–207 “Application to Carnegie Foundation for the Advance ment of Teaching for Elective Classification in Community Engagement.” 2 006. University of South Florida. negie/Engagement/ UnivSouthFloridaCommunityEngagement0806.pdf (5 May 2007). Aronowitz, Stanley. The Knowledge Factory: Dismantling the Corporate University and Creating True Higher Learning Boston: Beacon Press. 2000. “About AACU: Statement on Liberal Learning.” Associ ation of American Colleges and Universities. 1998. liberaleducation/index. cfm (18 Apr 2007). Badmington, Neil. “Introduction: Approaching Posthu manism.” Posthumanism Ed. Neil Badmington. New York: Palgrave, 2000. 1–10 Bakhtin, Mikhail. "Toward a Reworking of the Dostoy evsky Book." Problems of Dostoyevsky's Poetics Trans. Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984. 283–302. Balsamo, Anne. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg W omen Durham: Duke UP, 1996. Barabsi, Albert-Lszl. Linked: The New Science of Networks Cambridge: Perseus Books Group, 2002.

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About the Author Julia Leigh Mason received her BachelorÂ’s degree fr om Westminster College in Pennsylvania and her MasterÂ’s degree fro m the University of South Florida.


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