This article is the first in a three-part series. Two subsequent articles by Cheryl Ball will demonstrate the application of editorial pedagogy to the relationships between students / teachers and authors / editors respectively.
Sometimes, my esteemed colleague, Jim Kalmbach, understands my academic identity better than I do. His most recent revelation for me was this: “I see you transforming yourself in ways you don’t understand yet. It is true that your definition of DH will be richer than most people if for no other reason than it will include comp. You should stand in front of a mirror and say ‘I am a digital humanist.’” He’s right. My academic identity most easily fits into a digital humanities notion of technology-infused writing, publishing, and pedagogy. And in the month since I got Jim’s most recent identity-cometojesus-email, I’ve been able to reconcile these sometimes-competing disciplinary identities to form a holistic approach to my teaching, research, and service. In revising my teaching philosophy recently, I realized that my pedagogical approach wasn’t limited to classroom-based teaching, the typical scope of such statements. Instead, my philosophy — an editorial pedagogy — is fundamentally linked to my academic identity and performance as an editor, scholar, teacher, mentor, and administrator in digital writing studies. Or, more specifically, a juggling act of digital writing studies and digital publishing under the big tent of digital humanities.
Writing studies — the disciplinary field to which I am most connected — combines (at least) two areas of study: rhetoric and composition. In brief, rhetoric theorizes how texts are made and make meaning in the world, and composition theorizes the teaching of rhetoric through praxis. To me, these two sides of writing studies are inseparable in most academic settings, particularly as they help me perform research on texts and teach others to produce and study and teach texts.
But, the kinds of texts we encounter now aren’t the same ones that spawned the direct instruction of writing in higher education, when Harvard implemented first-year writing courses as a gatekeeping method for the new middle class, in 1874. Contemporary writing studies scholars have embraced new, internationally driven theories and strategies to teach and study writing that more effectively cover 21st century communication practices. Such instruction happens not only in linguistic modes as the phrase “writing studies” might indicate, but in multiple modes — such as those that the New London Group laid out and include visual, aural, spatial, and gestural modes — and in more media than the implied neutrality of “language”might indicate, as if modes other than aural (speech) and linguistic (inscribed writing) are not also at work in the meaning-making process. Multimodal theories and pedagogies embrace designing texts within situated social and cultural contexts, and rhetorical genre studies provides an analytical and pedagogical framework to understand how those contexts, and their genres, constantly shift — both of which help authors learn how to produce better, more useful texts across modes, media, genres, audiences, contexts, etc.
Applying multimodal and rhetorical genre theories to the texts I’m most interested in teaching and studying — web-based texts, or webtexts — also means drawing on my experience teaching and researching workplace writing, web design, print design, and information studies in technical and professional communication; aesthetics, poetics, and hypertext theories in literature and creative writing (particularly as those intersect in electronic literature); histories of print- and screen-based text production and delivery in media studies and textual studies; digital media practices in art and design; and other disciplinary areas and research, as needed. All available means. This conglomeration is where I find myself: focusing inwards, towards a “home” field that I call digital writing studies while simultaneously focusing outwards, towards digital publishing studies as a specialty that embraces the collaborative, open-access, and professional values of the digital humanities.
Editing = Mentoring = Teaching
The interdisciplinary foundation described above informs my scholarship, editing, teaching, and service to the profession through an approach I call an editorial pedagogy. An editorial pedagogy builds on the recursive and reciprocal nature of professionalization through editing, writing, mentoring, and teaching — student and teacher, author and editor, reader and scholar learn from each other (and the lines between those roles blur in an editorial pedagogy). In undergraduate and graduate courses on multimodal composition, technical communication, digital publishing, and pedagogy, I bring my particular expertise editing the peer-reviewed journal Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, which publishes webtexts exclusively. (Webtexts are screen-based scholarly articles that use digital media to enact the authors’ argument.) Kairos mentors authors through multiple revisions of their webtexts (usually through multiple “Revise & Resubmits”) because many of the journal’s authors are composing these mixed-genre, mixed-media, and multi-technological texts for the first time: They are developmental webtext authors who need to revise multiple times before their submissions can be accepted for publication. Like students.
This pedagogical approach isn’t just useful for student-authors, however. Upon acceptance, webtexts go through eight stages of copy- and design-editing, a process unique to Kairos, in its focus on design, but not dissimilar to the workflow many editors use for publication production. This process also requires mentorship of authors (to submit the correct types of files) and the journal’s staff (to know the latest web-sustainability requirements). Thus, any author who is expected to write, any editor who is expected to produce, and (as a by-product of the first two) any reader who is expected to understand a text within a new rhetorical situation is a developmental user who should be mentored into becoming a more professional communicator in that situation.
This mentorship applies to students writing in our classes and for the job market, editors (and/or students) learning workflows unique to digital publishing, and/or tenure readers evaluating digital scholarship. These are some of the populations I try to reach through an editorial pedagogy, one in which I teach apprentices to analyze genre ecologies and genres, practice those genres with those contexts in mind, and set up multiple levels of revision feedback specific to the situations in which those genres would be received or evaluated. Then, of course, after learning those processes, I teach them to adapt those skills to any reading, writing, or editing situation.
The recursive nature of an editorial pedagogy comes through the multiple layers of revision and feedback. But it was the reciprocal nature that prompted my theorizing this approach: In an undergraduate Multimodal Composition course, I was teaching new authors to compose webtexts for Kairos and similar scholarly multimedia journals when I realized that the webtexts they were producing in a 15-week semester were on par with submissions of many first-time Kairos authors. And their peer-review letters were on par with (if not better, in some cases) than the editorial board’s reviews. This was a duh-piphany in which I realized that the students had had explicit instructions and assignments detailing the genre conventions and disciplinary expectations of editorial peer reviews and webtexts, something that our authors and editorial boards have never gotten. For instance, none of the board members likely received such explicit training in reading/evaluating webtexts in their graduate programs, and I can only assume that authors learn from analyzing the current texts in Kairos, something I start the semester with in this undergraduate class. I quickly made my review expectations explicit for the editorial board, which changed their overall participation for the better.
Teaching Kairos to undergraduates taught me to be a better editor, and reciprocally, a better teacher to students in my classes and a better mentor to authors submitting to Kairos for the first time. This pedagogy plays out slightly differently depending on whether I’m editing Kairos, helping graduate students on the job market, writing a white paper for a grant, or teaching writing or publishing classes, both of which are part of a DH curriculum focused on professionalization, collaboration, and open access to/of knowledge (something, again, that digital writing studies has been doing well for decades). I understand my own identity now, standing in front of this circus funhouse mirror chanting to myself digital, editorial, pedagogy … digital, editorial, pedagogy.on1stsite]