Subversive planning: Critical administration of technology in and out of writing programs

Paul Bender, Syracuse University


This dissertation theorizes about the process of planning for information technology in and out of writing programs. "Information technology" is a term used to describe the visible and invisible structures that exist in and around technology in a university. These structures include the relationships between people, machines, environments, and policies. In particular, I examine the growing genre of the university technology plan as it relates to the forming and constraining of potential relationships to technology. I argue that, as institutions solidify their relationships to technology via policy statements, opportunities exist to transform those institutions through rhetorical intervention. This rhetorical intervention is what Porter et al. term "institutional critique." I argue that planning for technology enacts a form of institutional critique by altering the perception of technology and by providing leadership opportunities for rhetorical action.

As a highly visible and socially convincing form of progress, technology becomes a means of organizing relationships, and it presents an opportunity to engage in and transform those relationships through strategic leadership. Writing programs, because of their fluid nature, high student contact, and emphasis on pedagogy and literacy, are well suited to take advantage of these opportunities. Chapters one and two work to position technology within the writing program by examining the ways in which technology is and is not being addressed in critical pedagogy and critical literacy studies.

In chapters three, four, and five I examine the administration of technology as a leadership issue. I look at the ways in which technology plans run up against issues of teaching, learning, and literacy. These discussions would benefit greatly from a discipline that has spent so much time on being reflective teachers. In addition, I argue that WPAs as administrative nomads present intriguing figures for leading the way toward an emphasis on creating information ecologies--environments where technology is used to promote healthy living and working spaces.

This dissertation both embraces information technology while also critiquing it. I argue that, if information technology presents universities with a form or crisis, it also presents a very real opportunity.