When we think of the words “maker,” “maker culture,” and “makerspace,” it’s very likely that a specific set of images comes to mind. For me, I think of a 3D printer, the countless Arduinos I have in my toolbox at home, and the representations of futuristic hackers I grew up with in the 90s. In all of these instances, I see technologies. I see individuals. Dig deeper, and the technologies I see are usually new, produced in faraway third world countries, and might even produce carcinogenic particles as they create more and more wasted chotchkies for my bookshelf. Dig even deeper, and I see men, often white, occupying that white male tradition of the go-getter, the boot-strapper, the rugged, individual ingenue.

But there are other versions of a tinker, a wandering repairer of silver and tin. There are weavers and knitters, builders and carpenters, quilters and potters. What is a maker but one who brings together materials to make something new? Another word we might use for these makers is “crafter” or “craftsperson,” but then the question is: do we take the maker more seriously? Do we value the maker as a knowledge producer, where the crafter, without critical understanding, builds the lowly necessities for living?

Let’s push this line of questioning even further: why “maker”? Why not “making”? Why the focus on that solid, stable individual rather than the relations created between materials and those who handle them? Further, what other beings and becomings are always and already making? What room do we have in our current multimodal paradigms for the ways that nonhumans are makers too? For the ways the bees and the spiders and the sheep and the land itself is constantly producing new things, new knowledge?

Maker culture is an important part of our contemporary moment. Since Maker Media published the first issue of Make Magazine in 2005, Makerspaces have become recognizable fixtures in many universities as well as community spaces, housing technologies from 3D printers to microcontrollers to audio/visual equipment. In composition and rhetoric, the Maker movement has coincided with an imperative towards multimodality (Shipka, 2011), where students are encouraged to draw on their outside digital literacies to create compositions “in a new key” (Yancey, 2004).

But makers have a history that stretches farther back than the first computer, a history that begins with the most traditional of materials: earth, metal, animal fiber, and food (Creighton, 2001; Sohan, 2015; Driskill, 2015; Gabriel & Wagmister, 1997). These multimodal practices are mainstays in the private sphere, the domestic sphere, and the sphere of women, women of color, and working class people even into the modern era. Making is always and already digital, Latin for of the fingers (Haas, 2007). Whether wiring circuits, harvesting crops, knitting blankets, or constructing arguments using pen and paper, we are always engaging the body in gathering materials and creating something new.

I argue that in constructing the Makerspace as a strictly new media space (Sheridan, 2010), scholars have forgotten the deeply multimodal ways in which students, particularly women and people of color, have always and already been making digitally. Further, with new scholarship in the rhetoric of animals (Hawhee, 2017), not only humans are creating spaces for making: bees build hives to make food, beavers build dams to make homes. What often gets left out of these conversations is the embodied production of knowledge and identity in technological space (Vossoughi, 2016; Wajcman, 2004).

In this research, which is the beginnings of my dissertation as well as a larger project dedicated to serving my home communities of makers, I consider the idea that our Makerspaces are limiting us to a certain kind of maker and a certain way of making. It is highly technological, steeped in historical violence and erasure, and relegates other making communities to the “crafters,” to the lesser-thans, and even to the nonhumans, the animals and the objects and the people who have been figured by histories of electronic media as non-technological, non-rational, and not worthy of discussion. I will be conducting a video ethnography of three sites of making: a graduate student digital humanities research studio, a university crafts center that is open to both students and non-students, and my family farm in North Carolina.

I ask the questions: How are bodies being made (and disrupted) through their engagement with different material practices? What transfers between people, objects, tools, and space in a space where making happens, what I would like to call a Makingspace? How do different Makingspaces become enmeshed in institutional systems of power? And finally, how can we make more materially and culturally inclusive Makingspaces that account for the deeply historical and multimodal ways that women, people of color, and working class laborers have always and already been making?

The method that I will be using to conduct these video ethnographies draws directly from two individuals I owe much to. The first, Ann Shivers-McNair, has conducted a study of a corporate Makerspace using a GoPro attached to her head. Dr. Shivers-McNair calls this approach “3D interviewing,” where the researcher is made to pay attention to how bodies get made in movement and in three dimensional space. She herself draws from Sarah Pink’s method for sensory ethnography, a walking and talking approach that allows for the researcher to understand how practice, place, and the senses are intimately entangled. It is an apprenticeship model for research, a perfect way of understanding a Makerspace, where one’s participants teach one how to be a member of the community, where the researchers learns from her participants rather than learns about them. Dr. Shivers-McNair furthers Pink’s approach by considering how the researcher and the research apparatus help construct bodies within a research site. Rather than using videography to “capture” what is “real” in the Makerspace, she leans into the ways that a GoPro camera constructs certain bodies, including the researcher’s own, within its frame.

The second person I owe my methodology to is my father, who at the same time that Dr. Shivers-McNair was finishing her dissertation on this videographic method was using a GoPro to document his first days as a certified beekeper. In May 2017, my father unexpectedly died, and left behind a small corpus of videos. In these videos, the bees are furiously making their honey alongside my father who is helping them in their pursuits. When I look at these videos, I am reminded of many things: my father, never the reflective type, document his practice in the way a researcher has. My father, the engineer, the bricoleur. My father, the loud one, the 275-lb stout strong fire of our family, who died from anaphylactic shock brought about by a bee sting. My father, lived and breathed and died making.

When I watch these videos, I am transfixed by the way time and space are collated, simultaneously materializing the same event or the same location: I walk this path when I go home to work the land, and it is the same land but different – overgrown now without dad’s presence, full of biodiverse creatures and plants. I think about Maria Novotny’s (2015) piece in the 2015 special issue of Harlot where she writes of the ways made objects carry the traces of their makers. Ann Shivers-McNair and her GoPro, my father and his, myself and my dissertation. We are all diffractions of the same story: what makes a maker, what traces a body leaves on the world.

I therefore propose the idea that researchers of multimodal practice might be able to actualize the ways multiple makers perceive and experience a making event. Where Ann Shivers-McNair puts the GoPro on the heads and at the hearts of researchers, I propose we put the GoPros on the heads and at the hearts of makers themselves. What are we able to see when we have multiple materializations of the same event? What else might we understand about the making and composing process by diffracting our perspectives? How might we see the multiple paths that makers and their made things take through time and space? If Makers are their own culture, complete with ideas, spaces, histories, customs, and practices, then what are the constellations that make a maker, that make a crafter, and that make a farmer?

My goals in this research are to find ways to build Makerspaces that do not necessarily center highly electronic tool use. I imagine a space that has knitting needles, microcontrollers, joiners and planars, and a garden out back. More importantly, I imagine a space that isn’t concerned with tools at all, but people and the ways that they compose in their daily lives, not only with highly technological devices, but with all of the analog and hybrid materials they have at their disposal. We in composition often talk about “rhetoric by any means necessary.” I imagine a Makingspace that allows for making by any means possible. I also aim to question and disrupt the power systems that are wrapped up in our technocultures, especially within the Maker movement. As Shirin Vossoughi (2016) and Christina Dunbar-Hester (2015) have argued, it is integral that makers in our classrooms and in our communities see themselves in the Makingspace, whether through the visibility of mentorship or in the ways historical and political acts of making are embraced. It is through a critical lens that we might actively build Makingspaces that center the deep technocultures of craftspeople, the global south, the Third World, communities of color, and more. Most importantly, I do not aim to replace new media with the old, only that we may see the histories of craft and computers as part of the same technoculture: 1s and 0s, knits and purls, rows and mounds. Not only might we enrich our technological spaces by identifying these histories, we may also help the Makingspaces that don’t have the financial and in-kind backing of our institutions but yet are still an integral part of our human experience.

Annotated Bibliography for “Re-Making the Makerspace: Multimodality, Power, and Identity in Composition”

Creighton, Millie. “Spinning Silk, Weaving Selves: Nostalgia, Gender, and Identity in Japanese Craft Vacations.” Japanese Studies, vol. 21 no. 1, 2001, pp. 5–29.

In Millie Creighton’s “Spinning Silk, Weaving Selves: Nostalgia, Gender, and Identity in Japanese Craft Vacations” (2001), the phenomena of craft vacations for upper class women in Japan and how this has produced a national identity around nostalgia. The adoption of craft can mean an ideological rejection of capitalism. However, for craft to survive in contemporary Japan, it is marketed to the elite. Whereas once weaving happened in the factory, it is now a hobby craft for middle and upper class women to reclaim their heritage. Creighton conducts an ethnography in one of these seminars and theorizes herself as an apprentice within participant-observation. In taking the seminar, she is seen by other participants as a student as well as a researcher. In the seminars, the act of weaving becomes tied to communal harmonizing and a connection to nature. It is also involves generational knowledge, where more senior students teach the newer additions. The seminars focus more on process than product; students learn how to create silk before ever actually weaving and their final project is about bringing together the individual cloths produced by the women into one collective piece. Craft is conceptualizes in terms of nostalgia, a collective search for identity that happens during a time of transition. The seminars are a revitalization of the countryside based in the reality of the urbanite, however, and traveling to them becomes an experience that can only exist outside of the centralized city, which is too Westernized. Craft is also a way for the women, largely young unmarried professionals, to exercise power by rejecting the labor movement that separated them from their ancestors’ practices. Creighton ends by arguing the seminars are both performers and teachers, that an audience must be educated on the craft in order to appreciate craft.

Driskill, Qwo-Li. “Decolonial Skillshares: Indigenous Rhetorics as Radical Practice.” Survivance, Sovereignty, and Story: Teaching American Indian Rhetorics, edited by Lisa King, Rose Gubele, and Joyce Rain Anderson. University Press of Colorado, 2015, pp. 57–78.

In Qwo-Li Driskill’s “Decolonial Skillshares: Indigenous Rhetorics as Radical Practice” (2015), the author argues that decolonization is the practice of bringing learning and memory back into the body. In teaching indigenous rhetoric, students must learn about indigenous practices by doing them with their bodies. This doing with shows up in many different kinds of indigenous intellectual traditions, including wampum belts which communicate traveling side by side and knowing each other’s practices and beliefs. Driskill proposes the notion of the skillshare as a pedagogical tool for embodying rhetorical practice. S/he defines skillshare as having roots in punk culture and Native craft communities and working against capitalist economies. Decolonial skillshares have the specific goal of healing trauma and continuing cultural memory. S/he discusses three skills that s/he enacts in hir classroom: Cherokee language, the recording and performance of wampum, and basket weaving as a repositioning of the body and an embodied storytelling.


Dunbar-Hester, Christina. “Radical Inclusion? Locating Accountability in Technical DIY.” DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media. Matt Ratto, Megan Boler, and Ronald Deibert (eds). Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014, pp. 75-88.

In Christina Dunbar-Hester’s chapter “Radical Inclusion? Locating Accountability in Technical DIY” (2014), she explores two activist groups’ attempts at creating technological access and equality and forging a political identity through maker culture. Activists have often used technology as a community-building strategy that helps cultivate a radical participatory identity. While tinkering is an act of cultural production that levels experience and expertise, there are still challenges with coded exclusionary practices of technological maker identity formation. The Pirate Radio Collective took an egalitarian stance to technological education: they focused on advocacy and hands-on guidance, playing the role of technology propagators to create a political agency that was informed by a maker agency. Their goal was to demystify technology in order to combat corporate and academic hoarding of these skills. Despite their attempts to diffuse technology to a wider audience, they struggled with participation. Another group that Dunbar-Hester analyzes organized a series of barnraising events, a collective gathering where no one is allowed to do what they already know. While this approach yielded more participation, there were still challenges of access. People who came from elsewhere or nowhere – people who didn’t belong to the community – felt like they couldn’t get a foot in the door. Additionally, marginalized people were hypervisible in this space. While participants felt uncomfortable being the only girl or the only person of color there, the hypervisibility of female and PoC volunteers allowed participants to see a marginalized person as existing within a comfortable maker identity. Overall, the activists founds that located accountability and addressing specific groups’ needs was more effective than trying to enact a universalist egalitarianism.

Gabriel, Teshome H. and Fabian Wagmister. “Notes on Weavin’ Digital: T(h)inkers at the Loom.” Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, vol. 3, no. 3, 1997, pp. 333–44. Web.

In Teshome Gabriel and Fabian Wagmister’s “Notes on Weavin’ Digital: T(h)inkers at the Loom” (1997), they address the ways that technological process prompts people to let go of past traditions in order to be part of the future. They propose a shift to address Third World questions for technology, as they are uniquely positioned to see how the future necessarily rests on the past: 1) What are the local ways of theorizing and using technology? 2) What can those “left behind” see of their own culture in technology? And 3) How can new machines help carry on old traditions? The authors argue that “digital” implies tactility, sensory, and connection, all ideas that find a home in the act of weaving. In fact, much of the lexicon of weaving is also in the lexicon of computers. Technology creates producers and consumers from the same machine, just as the loom does. But computers often assume a specific kind of user with a specific kind of knowledge set, and the digital is constantly trying to distance itself ideologically and physically from the Third World. If we see weaving as an apt metaphor for technology, however, with its linkages and connections, its networks of memory, we see that the Third World has a place in shaping technological society. Gabriel and Wagmister call for an a-rational mode of thinking about the digital, an acknowledgement of the spiritual matter, senses, and interwovenness that is inherent in both computers and craft.

Haas, Angela. “Wampum as Hypertext: An American Indian Intellectual Tradition of Multimedia Theory and Practice.” Studies in American Indian Literatures, vol. 19 no. 4, 2007, pp. 77-100.

In Angela Haas’s “Wampum as Hypertext: An American Indian Intellectual Tradition of Multimedia Theory and Practice” (2007), she proposes a counterclaim to Western histories of multimedia and hypertext in the wampum belts of Native American tradition. Haas first traces the history of hypertext in the West to Vannevar Bush’s Memex and Ted Nelson’s Xanadu text, both of which embody a Western frontier colonizer narrative of discovery, naming, and claiming technologies. However, the wampum belt and many other American Indian intellectual traditions have long served as hypertext media. Wampum is a sign technology that is encoded with alliances between groups of people. They are made from visually contrasting materials of white and purple quahog shells and read very much like binary code. Wampum are objects that contain nodes and links and are an associative structuring of information. They are culturally situated cross-community texts, just like Bush’s Memex and Nelson’s Xanadu. They are also a supplemental storage of collective memory and serve as an interactive user interface: speaking into the wampum gives it life and shape and (non-figuratively) calls up the same treaties as from the original instance. While wampum is a hypertextual medium, it also has some differences from Western networked systems. Wampum maintains older texts and breathes new life into them; Western hypertext is subject to quick changes or never changes at all, which is not the case with wampum. Wampum also requires human intervention and response/responsibility. Haas argues that her analysis of wampum as hypertext shows not only that American Indians are technological savvy and sovereign, but that we benefit from broader versions of technological histories.

Haig-Brown, Celia. “Creating spaces: Testimonio, impossible knowledge, and academe.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, vol. 16 no. 3, 2003, pp. 415-433.

In Celia Haig-Brown’s “Creating Spaces: Testimonio, impossible knowledge, and academe” (2003), she explores the embarrassment researchers encounter when they are faced with impossible knowledge, or things that they cannot know within their own frameworks. Testimonio is a way to let people tell their own stories without judgment or interruption. Context matters when determining what counts as truth, so opening spaces for other contexts requires a different kind of listening which goes beyond our own social and cultural imaginations. Testimonio allows the stories and theory of the oppressed to disrupt that of the university/colonizer. As a genre, it is an intentional life history, a witnessing, a life story as the story of a people, and an active making. Interlocutors may not be trustworthy, may not have examined the power structures they themselves are immersed in, and layers of interpretation can muddle the knowledge produced, but testimonio is still a knowledge produced from unknowing. In Haig-Brown’s own research, participants choose to write their own stories after transcripts of interviews lacked complexity. In this way, the testimonialista makes space for the researcher to hear her, rather than the researcher making space for the participants to speak.

Hawhee, Debra. Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw: Animals, Sensation, Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

Still compiling notes!

Jones, Alison and Kuni Jenkins. “Indigenous Discourse and ‘The Material’: A Post-Interpretivist Argument.” International Review of Qualitative Research, vol. 1, no. 2, 2008, pp. 125-144.

In Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins’s “Indigenous Discourse and ‘The Material’: A Post-Interpretivist Argument” (2008), the authors explore what happens when we foreground the materiality of events rather than interpretations of what happened. Using Butlerian materialization as a foundation for their analysis, Jones and Jenkins show how the site of a Maori and British meeting in New Zealand has three possible readings: the forensic (what was recorded by first-hand accounts), the materializing (what the Maori would have recounted), and the interpretivist (multiple readings at once). For a forensic reading, reality lies in the archive, usually of the colonizer. In an interpretivist reading, there is a general skepticism towards reality, with different interpretations having equal standing. A materialization reading sees different accounts as real and separate events. These are other realities, not interpretations and they are differentially materialized via geography and memorializing practices. The authors argue that there is power in being able to reject a recorded history and to propose other realities that have emerged from material accounts.

Minh-ha, Trinh T. “Interviews.” Framer Framed: Film Scripts and Interviews. New York: Routledge, 1992, pp. 111-265.

In Trinh Minh-ha’s “Interviews” in Framer Framed (1992), she discusses three of her films, Reassemblage, Sur Name Viet Given Name Nam, and Naked Spaces. The firs tinterview discusses the process of translation in ethnographic film. Minh-ha aims not to reproduce an omniscient view or a politics of monolocation, so the strategies for each individual film comes from the specific material and context of that place. Going in and out of an ethnographic space and using filming techniques such as the zoom or the traveling shot creates a reflexivity with no center that breaks down the boundaries of the self. Interest is visible in Minh-ha’s films; they are not expressive of her individual position but her position as a social self. This act of crossing boundaries makes visible the process of translation and rationalization that the film-maker undergoes in order to bring what they see into their own framework. The next interview addresses hybridity in the perspectives of people of color. Part of Minh-ha’s goal is to resist Whiteness in her films and argue to the community that resistance is better than simply existing within the monolith of colonization. This resistance is to categorization and totalization, and her film technique often focuses on the creation of negative space that makes those boundaries visible by crossing them. In Sur Name Viet Given Name Nam, Minh-ha negotiates the difference between and within cultures in Vietnam by gathering stories. Instead of choosing which truth is most factual or representational, all stories open a critical space of viewing. The next interview discusses the ways that women of color and third world women exist in the space between theory and poetry. Language is a space to break open hegemonic theory and arbitrary knowledge boundaries, and Minh-ha accomplishes this through a fragmenting of text and speech in her films. The fragment isn’t the opposite of wholeness, however, but a self in the process of hybridity, a recognition of the self as difference or contingency. Further, documentary and ethnographic film have a concern with fact vs. fiction, but Minh-ha is concerned with the difference between truth and fact. She argues that truth is more important that fact, and includes participants’ own representations of themselves in her films. These depiction are often existing in a dream space, so while they may be seen as fiction, they are acknowledging the illusion of unmediated reality and putting agency into the hands of her subjects. In Sur Name Viet Given Name Nam, she uses film of the “raw” interviews and of performed interviews. The former is a constructed version of reality, the latter a chosen one. The question of truth and fact is one of handling difference and resisting consumption.

Novotny, Maria. “Craft as a Memorializing Rhetoric.” Harlot of the Arts, 14, 2015. Accessed 4 August 2017. Retrieved from harlotofthearts.org/index.php/harlot/article/view/247/172. 2015.

In Maria Novotny’s video for the Craft Rhetoric special issue of Harlot, “Craft as a Memorializing Rhetoric” (2015), she begins with a narrative of crafting with her aunts and argues that craft is relational and embodied. Specifically, she addresses the way that craft makes sense of loss through an understanding of relationality as material. Craft emerges when we assign stories to objects and serve as an embodied memorial to those people and events. Novotny explores how in losing her aunt, she wanted an object made by her aunt’s body, arguing that the made object is an imprint of that body that is lost. By communing with the things that our loved ones make, we are able to produce something out of loss. Craft helps us facilitate a continued relationality, translating embodied and affective realities. Novotny explores the ways that infertile women or women who have experienced miscarriage make as a memorializing practice of what can never be, not just what has been lost. Craft is a way for the body to be fertile and productive. It is a disruption of dominant discourse and a public pedagogy that facilitates relationality.

Pink, Sarah. Situating Everyday Life: Practices and Places. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd., 2012.

In Sarah Pink’s Situating Everyday Life (2012), she argues that we understand everyday life through the domestic – how places and practices are constituted, changed and maintained. Because everyday life spans across fields, we need interdisciplinary methods to address it. Further, everyday life is where worlds and subjectivities are made, and so it has a special connection to activism and liberation. Both the everyday and activism can be understood via place and practice, so Pink calls for an understanding of these from within. She begins by defining practice in terms of de Certeau’s tactics and strategies and Bourdieu’s habitus. An ethnography of practice allows us to see the performative nature of practice and its processes of change. An embodied and material perspective is necessary for an ethnography of practice because practice is always contextual and interrelating with other processes and ecologies. Place, on the other hand, is a particular experience of space that produces particular practices. Pink sees place and practice as existing in an entanglement where they are both simultaneous and constitutive of one another. Moving to a discussion of methodology, she argues that data must be seen as co-produced knowledge that is made through movement. In order to arrest that act of knowledge-production, ethnographers should begin by understanding that everything is in relation to the event of place and by using mobile or sensory methods, one can see representations as they are produced in and through movement. Mobile, sensory, and video methods act as an empathetic dialogue and shared anthropology with participants. She offers three examples of everyday ethnographic research: washing up, where both convention and innovation occured; laundry, where domestic energy is consumed and produces a sensory environment; a community garden, which implicated an entanglement of local and global practice; urban environmental activism, where sustainability movements implicate and carry out everyday practice; and the Internet, where everyday life takes place within a much larger network.

Powell, Malea, Levy, Daisy, Riley-Mukavetz, Andrea, Brooks-Gillies, Marilee, Novotny, Maria, and Fisch-Ferguson, Jennifer. “Our Story Begins Here: Constellating Cultural Rhetorics Practices.” Enculturation, 2014. Retrieved from http://enculturation.net/our-story-begins-here.

In the Cultural Theory Lab’s “Our Story Begins Here: Constellating Cultural Rhetorics Practices” (2014), they put forth a methodology for cultural rhetorics practice. The recent object-oriented ontological turn has cast culture as static object, erasing the human bodies that live and move within it. Instead, the authors argue that rhetoric is culturally produced by communities of shared belief and practices that accumulate over time and place. In a cultural theory of rhetorical practice, scholars should understand the production of knowledge as relational: all relations matter in a constellation and positionality is significant. Cultural rhetorics doesn’t begin from a scarcity model of gaps in the literature, but from abundance of intellectual relations and different origins. Part of the work of cultural rhetorics is to decolonize academic practice by decoupling scholarship from the colonial practices that get carried out through publication, research, and writing. Instead, scholarship can create sustainable frameworks. Rather than negate and destroy, critique can be messy and lead somewhere affirmative.

Rios, Gabriela Raquel. “Cultivating Land-Based Literacies and Rhetorics.” Literacy in Composition Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, 2015, pp. 60-70.

In Gabriela Raquel Rios’s “Cultivating Land-Based Literacies and Rhetorics” (2015), she researches the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who are actively engaged in developing literacy practices based in land and embodied ways of knowing. The CIW are a farm and domestic labor rights group who see traditional literacy as devaluing their work and dehumanizing their people. However, they see their work as carrying strong rhetorical weight. The garden is their classroom where citizens are made outside of the colonizing rhetoric of the West. Rios proposes a theory of land-based rhetoric, where farmers and those who interact with the land hold an ontological position. The human emerges from Earth consciousness. CIW argues that it is the land that has taught the laborers how to organize. Through actions and meetings, they perform a relationality with the land that helps inform their relationships with people. Rios ends by arguing that the body is a site of knowledge transfer that informs and recruits, critiques and interprets, and archives and remakes.

Sheridan, David. “Fabricating consent: Three-dimensional objects as rhetorical.” Computers and Composition, vol. 27, no.4, 2010, pp. 249-265.

In David Sheridan’s “Fabricating Consent: Three-dimensional Objects as Rhetorical” (2015), he explores the rhetoricity of 3D-fabricated objects. 3D rhetorics, are a kind of literacy in which the composer masters all the available means, including production and manufacture. He offers four main arguments for 3D rhetoric: it is possible (infrastructural accessibility); it is powerful (rhetorical effectiveness); it is valued (cultural status); and it is ours (despecialization). He argues that because the world is three-dimensional, so should the composing practices we teach respond with three-dimensional methods. He argues for a pedagogy of rhetoric that builds from the ground up where students can rethink what they can, should, and have ownership of doing.


Shipka, Jody. Toward a Composition Made Whole. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.

In Jody Shipka’s Towards a Composition Made Whole (2011), she begins by laying the groundwork for composition studies in the 21st century. Increasingly, compositionists are concerned with relevancy and rigor, curricular learning and extracurricular literacies, and the ways the digital are changing our discipline. She begins with composition’s beginnings in the field of communication and process, where matters tend to be seen as more practical than theoretical, but that thinking and doing are both valued and where media plays a role in what gets written. Drawing from communication studies, Shipka argues that students ought to be given the opportunity to contend with the language systems of their lived experiences and to be situated in material labor, examining their means of production. She calls for us to look to the “where” of writing, treating students as travelers who move through various modes, including but not only technology. This sociocultural framework calls for analysis of mediated action, i.e. the product in relation to the process and humans in relation to their social contexts. All activity is mediated by tools, has multiple purposes, and is changed by new mediational means. By understanding composition as mediated and social, we are able to specify our tools of production, see the complexity of our work, and move towards remediation and change in terms of the privileged tools of society. The book’s case study involved writers being asked to draw depictions of writing, both their primary space of work and their overall process. A recurrent theme among all participants were their environmental selecting and structures practices. In re-producing texts, writers used other humans and nonhumans to shape thought in the service of action. Shipka argues that writers cannot be limited in their mediational means if they’re going to be adaptive and aware composers. Writers should be able to see composition as both subject matter and process and reflect on other possible means that would create other possible worlds. Students who end up making with different means better understand how those means are employed out in the world. This approach has challenges, from students having trouble moving from a consumer role to a producer role, and the field already struggles with a disconnect between creativity and rigor. However, the goals of the field are still in play within this activity-based multimodal framework: to consider product in relation to process and to practice complex decision-making. Shipka ends by addressing the issue of assessment in multimodal composition by suggesting composition scholars encourage a double-voiced discourse from students and double-eared listening from teachers. In writing a Statement of Goals and Choices, students are able to see how their intentions meet up with an audience’s reception.

Shivers-McNair, Ann. “3D Interviewing with Researcher POV Video: Bodies and Knowledge in the Making.” Kairos 2017.

In Ann Shivers-McNair’s “3D Interviewing With Researcher POV Video: Bodies and Knowledge in the Making” (2017), she explores the boundary-making practices of rhetoric and critical making through an approach to interviews that takes advantage of three-dimensional space. The 3D interview accounts for movement of bodies along x, y, and z axes. This allows the researcher to account for boundary markings as well as the change in research apparatus that helped mark those boundaries. The approach also involves triangulation of language-based meaning making with other acts of making as they unfold in real time and space. The goal of the approach is to make space for the possible bodies that could be made and how they are made. The method also allows for phenomena like sound, but cannot account for touch; this marks a sonic body but not a feeling one, so the data also produces bodies marked by what is not said. Shivers-McNair also acknowledges the ways that technical specifications can mark bodies and allow specific realities. The placement of her camera on the body marks and creates her own body as a researcher. She ends the article by calling for researchers to locate the researcher in the production of knowledge alongside embodied acts of making and their resulting representational artifacts.

Sohan, Vanessa K. “’But a Quilt is More’: Recontextualizing the Discourse(s) of the Gee’s Bend Quilts.” College English, vol. 77, no. 4, 2015 , pp. 294.

In Vanessa Sohan’s “‘But a Quilt is More’: Recontextualizing the Discourse(s) of the Gee’s Bend Quilters” (2015), she explores how the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama write their lives through the semiotic practice of needlework. Gee’s Bend quilters engage in complex processes of composition, even though African American women’s making doesn’t always count as rhetoric. They resist artistic definitions and traditional practices of quilt-making, and there is a tension between their intentionality and the quilts as signs of similarity and difference. Because quilting is a way of being in the world that recontextualizes social and material worlds, it is a discourse, not an alternative to discourse. Instead of looking at where the quilts do or don’t fit into definitions, we need to consider how the quilts fit into their own movement and moment. They exist both outside and within tradition, remediating materials of specific times and places that would normally be inconsequential to the official record. Quilts were often made for others during slavery and Reconstruction. Even now, there is a cross-cultural exchange between quilters and whites wanting to buy the quilts. Sohan ends by arguing that the quilters have a keen sense of their own semiotic resources: sometimes, things just don’t look right. Rhetoric and writing also may or may not fit its own rhetorical terms, and this perspective gives us the opportunity to focus on difference rather than deficit.

Taguchi, Hillevi L. “A diffractive and Deleuzian approach to analysing interview data.” Feminist Theory, vol. 13, no. 3, 2012, pp. 265–281.

In Hillevi Lenz Taguchi’s “A Diffractive and Deleuzian Approach to Analyzing Interview Data” (2012), she argues that we should reconfigure our means for understanding the agency of materials in producing knowledge. She calls for us to read data from our own body positions which requires us to think from an ontological perspective. Traditional interpretation separates the researcher from her data and expects interviews to reflect experience. Interpretation reflects sameness and separates out difference, but a diffractive approach is concerned with how difference gets made through processes of entanglements. In a diffractive mode, the researcher becomes-with her data in an act of transcorporeal engagement. The data interferes alongside the researcher in order to imagine other possible realities. This approach allows us to think about both intervention and invention alongside a responsibility and ethics towards our participants.


Vossoughi, Shirin. “Making through the lens of culture and power: Towards transformative visions for educational equity.” Harvard Educational Review, 2016.

In Shirin Vossoughi’s “Making Through the Lens of Culture and Power: Towards a Transformative Lens for Educational Equity” (2016), Vossoughi considers how creativity and “making” get coded and on whose terms they manifest. Mainstream making is often nostalgic for a white, male, rugged individualist past and is explicitly economic in nature. Forms of ingenuity that are about survivance or art are often devalued; makers must be useful within a capitalist society. The Maker Movement in particular saw making as a “discovery” by the middle class, but Vossoughi argues that the working class is always and already making without this privilege of reflection. When marginalized communities do have a place in the Maker narrative, they are in need of maker interventions or rebranding in order to be acceptable. In this view of making, artifacts are more important than people. While the Maker movement argues that making as education can liberate what counts as learning, there is little research that shows this. In fact, making can often reproduce historical inequities as these sameness-as-fairness models take hegemonic experience as the default. Vossoughi proposes an equity-oriented approach to making that includes a critical analysis of educational injustice focusing on structural change. A transformative pedagogy of making would also do away with a deficit ideology that comes from set definitions of making. She calls for an historicized approach to making as cross-cultural activity, where making is seen as already present in cultural contexts, especially in unscientific spaces. She also calls into question the idea of teachers-as-guides without expertise. There is value in the generative role of elders in many marginalized communities, and Vossoughi argues that this is a space for social belonging to be interwoven into making practice. Taking into consideration the sociopolitical values of making, makers must consider what kind of subject is being made in these contexts.

Wajcman, Judy. Technofeminism. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004.

In Judy Wajcman’s Technofeminism, she argues for an understanding of gender and technology as constitutive. Early feminists saw technology either as an affront to the natural femininity and reproductive power of women (radical feminists) or as historically constructed via the gendered division of labor (Marxist feminists). Instead, Wajcman argues for a feminist STS perspective that configures technology as a product of path-dependence that excludes women from the design process and includes them downstream in the process of technological adoption. Wajcman proposes a solution to cyberfeminism and Haraway’s cyborg, which both fetishize technology, erase the body’s role in constituting technological relationships, and ignore issues of contingent labor that technology makes more and more possible. Instead, our focus should be on the ways that women have adopted and responded to the technologies of the past and how they might design and shape the technologies of the future by being involved “upstream” in the design process.

Wilson, Shawn. Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2008.

In Shawn Wilson’s Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods (2008), he proposes a methodology towards indigenous research which he terms relational accountability, which is centered in storytelling and indigenous intellectual traditions. Instead of creating boundaries and imposing them on cultures, researchers should recognize the material conditions that indigenous people live within and listen to the categories that are being defined by the peoples themselves. Wilson triangulates ontology, epistemology, methodology and axiology in order to show how an indigenous research paradigm centers relationality and accountability in its ethical concerns. Researchers must explore their relationships to people, land, cosmos, and ideas and how they remain responsible to those elements throughout the research. Wilson employs various methods to accomplish this paradigm, but most noteworthy is the talking circle, which invites participants to speak one at a time, building off of what the previous participant has said. He ends the book by acknowledging that knowledge is never owned or contained and that methods for an indigenous research paradigm must be lifelong participant-observation.

Yancey, Kathleen B. “Made not only in words: Composition in a new key.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 56, no. 2, 2004, pp. 297-328.

In Kathleen Blake Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” (2004), she responds to the shifts in English department trends, globalization, reading publics, participatory cultures, attitudes towards higher education, and new technologies. All of these changes, she argues, happen outside of school. Composition must respond to these shifts by understanding composing as interfacing, where the screen is a vernacular and a necessary literacy. While the content of composition is already digital and multimodal, our practices and modes must follow suit. A new curriculum would include intertextual circulation, multimedia and multidelivery, and transfer all as a preparation for public life. Along with this, Yancey calls for a new programmatic effort towards writing-across-the-curriculum and the creation of a major in rhetoric and composition.