Creating Spaces for Strategic Contemplation:
A Collaborative Webtext
By David Maynard and Christine Denecker
Designed by Megan Adams
Now What? Navigating the Digital Frontier
As I reflect on my decision to use the Microsoft product, Windows Movie Maker, to complete my digital video, I am struck by the naïve manner in which I approached this technology. Having delved into the question of government surveillance in some depth following the completion of my video essay for the “Ask the Expert” assignment, I still find myself returning to Cynthia Selfe’s (1999) admonishment to writing studies professionals to become more critically aware of their own technology practices and how those practices participate in complex, always transforming social and material contexts (p. xxii). Likewise, Kris Blair (2016) has observed that while institutions of higher education tend to uncritically associate new technologies with “innovation” and “progress,” rhetoric and writing “has shifted toward a more critical cultural perspective that challenges the assumption that individuals and classrooms are empowered by sheer virtue of technology itself, and recognizes that the same structures of inequity and intolerance can occur just as frequently online as off” (p. 168). As suggested by Blair, Selfe and many of the other scholars I have discussed, if we are to have any hope of engaging with classroom and other learning technologies consciously and helping our students to do so, it is vital that we interrogate the larger social and material contexts in which even the most routine technologies circulate.
As a result of composing the video essay included in this webtext, as well as researching the complex problem of government surveillance, I have come to appreciate the importance of “staying with the trouble” of messy issues like government surveillance that continue to challenge my assumptions about technology use and how such use participates in the circulation of power in local, national and global contexts (Haraway, 2016, p. 1). And while attending to the complexities of one’s technology use in this way can feel overwhelming and may even lead one to feel powerless to effect change in the face of often Kafka-esque corporate and state power structures, I believe that it is precisely by dwelling with this complexity, by dwelling with “that which challenges us, calls upon us, or puts our own possibilities in question in an alienating, shocking, or amazing fashion” that we begin to appreciate how important our role as writing professionals really is (Waldenfels, 2011, p. 36). When we come to recognize that even our most routine classroom practices participate in even the most complex circulations of power, we also recognize that every choice we make is charged with meaning and consequence. Far from inducing despair, I prefer to think that such realization helps us to appreciate the ways in which the work of the classroom is never really limited to the classroom as a geographically and temporally fixed location, but is always expanding to include the nation and the world and always positioning us and our students at important but always shifting junctures to better understand and productively influence the circulation of power itself.