In response to a posting I wrote a week or two ago, Steven Kapica shared an image on Twitter of one of his students’ writing spaces. I’m wondering if other readers have images of writing spaces, and if so, if they would share them with us.
I’m asking particularly because I’ve just read a very interesting and provocative article in the February issue of College Composition and Communication, Hannah Rule’s “Writing’s Rooms” (402-432). I was first attracted by the title, which gives writing the agency: writing’s rooms, thus suggesting—indeed arguing—that writing is embodied in spaces, that it shapes as well as is shaped by spaces, and that it is always, in her words, “emplaced.”
Rule’s essay reviews three studies that focus on writing’s rooms: one by Susan Wyche, who asks students to respond to detailed questions about where, how, and with whom they write and then interviews them about their thoughts on these questions. A second study by Paul Prior and Jody Shipka focuses on writing room practices, asking participants to draw pictures of these spaces which, in Rule’s view, “shows how non-alphabetic modes capture the constructedness and lived experiences of writing’s rooms.” In the third study, an ethnography of undergraduates, Brian McNely, Paul Gestwicki, Bridget Gelms, and Ann Burke use “visual ethnography methods”—photographs—to reveal more about writing’s rooms and writing practices. These photos show “the ‘extra stuff’ around and involved in the inventional, compositional action the researchers were studying, and their accrual “delivers a sense of these students’ ‘theatre of composition.”
Finally, Rule reports on a study she and her graduate students did, in which the students first made two drawings of their writing processes and wrote about what was shown there. Then they video recorded several sessions of writing, which, along with the drawings, provided material for follow-up structured interviews. Rule’s descriptions of this study are vivid and fascinating, and they support her conclusion that such multimodal methods are “especially useful for writers in our classrooms”:
To pursue writing’s rooms is to continually uncover the inhabited ‘theaters’ of composing processes: the emplaced embodied movements, the unintentional and accidental interactions that exceed awareness, the ineluctable and myriad ways that writing always (and all ways) takes place. (430)
I appreciate Rule’s careful review of previous research, her elegant account of her own study, and her call for composition researchers to continue a focus on the places, the spaces, the rooms (and automobiles, buses, benches, other nooks and crannies) where writing happens.
If you have other examples of student writing spaces/rooms, please share in the comments below or on social media!
Image Credit: Pixabay Image 828911 by Free-Photos, used under a CC0 Creative Commons License