The Spring 2000 issue of Writing Center Journal focused on the future of writing centers and writing center work. Editors Albert C. DeCiccio and Joan Mullin state in the forward that they asked nine influential writing center scholars “who have challenged us from the beginning” (Lil Brannon & Stephen North, Muriel Harris, Joyce Kinkead & Jeannette Harris, Harvey Kail, John Trimbur, and Lisa Ede & Andrea Lunsford) to respond to three questions:
- Given changing educational demands, populations, budgets, and technology, how do you see writing centers continuing as viable parts of the academy?
- In what ways will writing centers continue to be viable contributors to the research community?
- Can you target any issues that writing centers need to open up or begin to address that have to do with our future place in the academy and the larger community? (5)
While the other respondents address a wide variety of issues (briefly touching on technology) only Muriel Harris and John Trimbur address the issue of rhetorical media directly in their responses to these questions. Harris notably strikes a practical note in her recognition of technology as one of the most important issues that writing centers will be facing in the future:
First, we need to recognize our role in helping students use—or learn to use—technology as part of their writing processes. Students may come through our doors not yet adept at word processing or uncomfortable with composing online or discussing writing online, but as writing classrooms move into computer lab classrooms, they will come with questions about writing in that environment. (16)
Given his early and foundational work in multi-modal texts and visual rhetoric with textbooks such asThe Call to Write (1999), it is understandable that Trimbur’s response focuses more on the types of texts writers will bring with them to the writing center rather than just the types of technology that they will use to produce them:
My guess is that writing centers will more and more define themselves as multiliteracy centers. Many are already doing so—tutoring oral presentations, adding online tutorials, offering workshops in evaluating web sources, being more conscious of document desing. To my mind, the new digital literacies will increasingly be incorporated into writing centers not just as sources of information or delivery systems for tutoring but as productive arts in their own right, and writing center work will, if anything, become more rhetorical in paying attention to the practices and effects of design in written and visual communication—more product oriented and perhaps less like the composing conferences of the process movement. (30)
Harris and Trimbur predict a reality for writing centers that we will be working with technology and rhetorical media on much more frequently in the 21st century. Ten years later, however, we seem to be on a cusp of the influence of rhetorical media is having on writing center work, and how writing centers are (or are not) responding to it. Put simply, the new reality that writing centers face is caught between a purely technological response, a fuller response to students writing rhetorical media, or doing nothing at all. How writing centers best respond to realities, given predictions and our predilections, will certainly play out in the next decade. All writing centers, and for the purposes of this web text, writing centers at open-access institutions need to weigh carefully what the realities, predictions, and our predilections will influence the work we do.
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