Digital Technologies, Bodies, and Embodiments
A Special Issue of Computers and Composition
Guest Editors: Phil Bratta (Michigan State University) and Scott Sundvall (University of Memphis)
In the last five years or so, rhetoric and composition scholarship has offered work that brings digital media and bodies to the forefront to shape pedagogical praxis, illuminate cultural practices, and extend composition studies (into writing studies). Yet, much of this scholarship remains focused on the rhetorical construction of embodiment, as indicated by several recent journal special issues: Perspectives and Definitions of Digital Rhetoric (Enculturation 23 2016), Wearable Rhetorics: Bodies, Cities, Collectives (Rhetoric Society Quarterly 46.3 2016), Embodied and Affective Rhetorics (Present Tense 6.1 2016), Embodied Sound (Kairos 21.1 2016), and Sexing Colorlines: Black Sexualities, Popular Culture, and Cultural Production (Poroi 7.2 2011). The advent and, now, ubiquity of digital media and digital writing practices demands a rethinking of the relationships between rhetoric, bodies, embodiments, and writing (as broadly construed): how writing embodies and composes a writer; how writing embodies and composes others; and, inversely, how bodies and embodiments compose hegemonic regimes of—or sites of resistance to—contemporary writing modalities, both in and outside the writing classroom.
This special issue will examine questions of digital media, bodies, and embodiments with specific attention to writing studies itself: how writing composes embodiments and how embodiments compose writing within and through digital technologies and institutions. We are calling for scholarship that offers theoretical, methodological, and/or pedagogical work that contributes to the latest research on, about, with, and between (dis)connections of digital technologies, bodies, embodiments, and writing in digital-cultural contexts, texts, and events. Following Computers and Composition’s emphasis on the use of computers and digital technologies in teaching and the writing classroom, writing program administration, and writing research, we are particularly interested in submissions that apply theoretical methods to the practical dimension of the field. To this end, our special issue of Computers and Composition seeks to continue and extend some of the journal’s past and forthcoming special issues, such as Jonathan Alexander and Will Banks’ Sexualities, Technologies, and the Teaching of Writing (2004) and Jason Tham, Megan McGrath, Ann Hill Duin, and Joe Moses’ forthcoming Wearable Technology, Ubiquitous Computing, and Immersive Experience: Implications for Writing Studies.
For this special issue, we distinguish “the body” and “embodiment” as different conceptual terms—a move laid out by N. Katherine Hayles and Anne Frances Wysocki. The body, according to Hayles, is abstract and normalized; embodiment, in contrast, is an instantiated materiality, a corporeality that cannot be separated from its medium and context (196). We might conclude that the body is general and embodiment is particular. Likewise, Wysocki asserts that embodiment “calls us to attend to what we just simply do, day to day, moving about, communicating with others, using objects that we simply use in order to make things happen” (3). Of course, embodiment and the body are always woven together in lived experiences and social contexts. The key is not to create a binary relationship between the two or privilege one over the other; rather, the two need to be conceptualized together as they are inextricably intertwined.
Suggestions for topics that contributors may wish to engage with include, but are not limited to: rhetoric, composition, and writing; histories of composition, writing, and digital technologies; critical pedagogies, teaching praxes, and classroom practices; theoretical legacies (in praxis): feminism, post-colonial theory, decolonial theory, queer theory, critical race theory, poststructuralism, cultural rhetorics theory, etc.; digital humanities, digital media, and digital studies; art, creative-critical work/scholarship, and genre studies; disability studies; visual culture and rhetorics; new media and game studies; social justice, activism, and community outreach; space, place, and land; subjectivity, identity, agency, and difference; professional and technical communication and writing, UX/XA, and design; and computational rhetorics and analytics.
Some possible questions authors may wish to engage (but are not required):
- How do we account for the indistinguishable materiality between bodies, embodiments, and digital technologies, and how does writing negotiate this tension?
- How do we consider the relations of bodies and embodiments to non-digital and digital places, technologies, and others? Likewise, how does the shift from non-digital to digital writing further complicate such relations?
- What affordances and constraints do non-digital and digital writing technologies create for the bodies and embodiments of teachers and students in the classroom?
- How do subjectivities and identities (race, gender, class, sexual orientation, nationality, dis/ability, age, and/or creed) factor into the use, accessibility, and practice of digital technologies and writing both in and outside the classroom?
- How do writing program administrators create writing programs that tend to the complexities of embodiment, especially as digitally mediated?
- How does the relationship between embodiment, identity, and ubiquitous computing challenge “traditional” conceptions of writing assessment?
- What technologies, bodies, embodiments, and writing practices emerge, oppress, subvert, and augment if we consider ideas of space, place, and land?
- What constitutes the meaning/content of a body and embodiment and the grammar/syntax of a body and embodiment, and how do we arrive at such?
- How might art and artists illuminate dominant assumptions of embodied technologies, and how might writing studies take on such aesthetic methods?
Proposals due: October 31, 2017
Decision to authors on preliminary inclusion: December 31, 2017
Initial drafts of 6,000-7,000 words to guest editors: June 30, 2018
Article revisions due to guest editors: December 31, 2018
Publication of special issue: September 2019
Submission and Contact Details
Individuals or co-authors should submit a 300-500 word proposal that gives an overview of the piece, including impetus and focus, and contribution to the field(s). Proposals should be submitted as .doc or .docx files to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The subject line of the email submission should read “Special Issue Proposal: Digital Technologies, Bodies, and Embodiments.” For more information or queries, email Scott Sundvall and Phil Bratta: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Phil Bratta is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. His interests are in rhetorics of activism and art, digital rhetorics, cultural rhetorics, visual rhetorics, embodiment, digital writing and technology use, and pedagogy. Currently, he is one of the managing editors of the newly established journal constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space and an editorial assistant for Journal of Global Literacies, Technologies, and Emerging Pedagogies. He has published single-authored or co-authored manuscripts in The Journal of American Culture, Visual Culture and Gender, enculturation: a journal of rhetoric, writing, and culture and With the Network/In the Network: Cultural and Artistic Creation, Investigation and Communication in the Internet Era. Phil also has been involved with a number of (art) activist projects: PACT (Public Action for Today), The Cradle Project, One Million Bones, and #midwesthungeris.
Scott Sundvall is currently the Director of the Center for Writing and Communication at the University of Memphis, where he also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in rhetoric and writing. His research focuses on new media/multimodal writing, digital rhetoric, electracy, and critical theory, with specific emphases on constructions of subjectivity, public and participatory rhetoric and writing, surveillance, and activist rhetorics. He is the editor for the forthcoming anthology Rhetorical Speculations (Utah State University Press) and a Formatting Editor for enculturation. Scott’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Philosophy and Rhetoric, Composition Forum, Itineration, enculturation, Ulmer’s Textshop Experiments, Politics of Place, and edited collections. He is currently preparing his first monograph which uses a schizoanalytic framework to rethink the rhetoric of contemporary, digital surveillance modalities.