Update Culture and the Afterlife of Digital Writing

by John R. Gallagher

Reviewed by Marissa Baker


Pedagogy Applications

“Pedagogically, my argument in this book can be articulated as follows: there is an entire composing process that happens after a digital text is created and we, as instructors, need to account for this process” (p. 154).

Gallager’s chapter on “Learning and Pedagogy in Update Culture” offers suggestions for how writers who do not yet have an audience might apply the lessons learned from authors who do contend with a participatory audience. He combines his discussion of what new online reviewers, Redditors, bloggers, and journalists might learn from the findings presented in Update Culture with his discussion of how composition teachers might bring the textual strategies and communication virtues of digital writers into their classrooms.

There is no question that composition—including academic writing—is happening in digital formats at an increasing rate, as readers of Computers and Composition know well. Gallager’s findings suggest that it is not enough for us to teach students how to write for online spaces. When we teach digital writing, we also need to teach “what they are expected to do with their writing after they’ve written” (p. 152). Digital writing has an afterlife, and if we are going to teach digital writing we must also teach students how to engage with that afterlife. While I would have appreciated more concrete examples of how to teach students about the aftermath of online writing, Gallager does provide groundwork for instructors seeking to incorporate principles of textual timing, attention, and management into their composition classrooms.


John R. Gallagher is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition to Update Culture, he is coeditor of Explanation Points: Publishing in Rhetoric and Composition, and his work has been published in Computers and Composition, Enculturation, Rhetoric Review, Technical Communication Quarterly, Transformations, and Written Communication.