Erika Gifford, The University of Findlay
As a new scholar in the field of rhetoric and composition, there were a number of new terms included in this book that were easy enough on their own, but difficult when introduced all at once in a complex argument designed to further the definitions of those words. I would recommend readers have a background in assemblage and/or new materialist rhetoric (NMR) to help keep track of how she hopes craft can change them. If that is not available, keeping careful track of definitions as they are introduced, and intentional reading was helpful for me. The message of this book is certainly worth the effort I put in to understand it.
This book may be useful for people who are doing research on rhetoric and material objects. Since reading Making Matters, I have begun a primary source research project at a museum in my area looking at the rhetoric of cookbooks. While I ended up going with another theoretical framework, my new background in NMR was helpful in beginning to peel back the layers of influence on the cookbooks I was working with. Gruwell’s work reminded me to look for intra-actions, for non-human influences, and to study how the materiality of the object contributes to its message.
I think the biggest application of this text comes with AI writing. While written before programs like ChatGPT were released and made popular, this book can provide a basis from which to create a framework for dealing with those non-human, material actors people now compose with. Specifically as a teacher of first year composition, this book has helped me address proper citation ethics is I push students to question who is being left out of a conversation when a chatbot generates text, and provided a theory on which to form a response when students turn in AI generated material as their own work withought proper citations of the tools that got them there.
This application goes hand in hand with my call for further research: ChatGPT is in some ways just the newest material actor joining the scene of hundreds of other influences to our writing, but it certainly has opened people’s eyes to the intra-actions between non-humans, material objects, and the writer. While this book can begin to address AI in a way that seems ahead of its time, the conversation is moving quickly, and this book’s argument may lose poignancy if it does not jump on the kiros (which Gruwell defines as an opportune time) our discipline currently faces.