emu onlinehalle librarygooglegoogle docswriting center

326.Worknets (20%, 20 points)

Worknets in ENGL326 involve you in bringing to light four distinct research webs: semantic, bibliographic, affinity-based, and choral. Begin by choosing a key (e.g., known, influential) academic article in your field of study since 1980. You will need a copy of the article, and you should make arrangements early in the semester to retrieve it. Each of the worknets will consist of a network-like visual representation (sketched in Google Docs/Drawing) and a brief inventory or synthesis (300-500 words) that accounts for associations illuminated in the net.

Worknets provide an inventive method for composing, through the tracing of associations, linkages and connections manifest in researched writing, many of which are elusive. Attending to these dimensions of research activity should prove generative: it will allow us to more richly explore and develop written research along related lines of inquiry. That is, while these worknets offer us criteria for tracing associations, the routes we follow shall in many cases lead us back through our own in-progress researched projects (e.g., P2).

How Will I Represent Each Worknet?
After you select a scholarly article to work with, you will produce four worknets. I recommend you use Google Docs/Drawing to produce a visual representation of each worknet because its drawing tools are simple; however, you are welcome to try out other software options, such as CMap Tools (free; download required; available for Mac or PC). In addition to the visual representation, you will write an account of the worknet that explores and/or synthesizes your choices and digs into their suggestiveness for the research you are currently pursuing in ENGL326.

What Are These Worknets Building Toward?
I have described worknets as an inventive method, but they also enlarge the context within which you are conducting research. As researchers read (in whatever field of study), they frequently trace associations in these (and many other) ways. For some, the worknets you create in ENGL326 will directly influence the developmental buildup of P2, the researched project. For others, the worknets will establish parallel pathways, perhaps not as directly giving shape to your research, but nevertheless providing you with invaluable first-hand experience with these practices.

An Example
I have sketched for you a series of worknets extending from Marylin Cooper's 1986 College English article, "The Ecology of Writing." This is an important scholarly essay—a key precursor to ecological thinking about writing practices that has continued to take hold in the 24 years since it was published.

Semantic Worknet

1. Semantic Worknet
The sematic worknet concerns vocabulary—words and phrases that appear in the article itself and whose reference and meaning can be traced to peripheral ideas suited to further exploration. A written account accompanying this semantic worknet would carefully examine selected phrases. For instance, it might dig more deeply into "process model," a phrase that appears eight times in Cooper's article. What exactly is a "process model" in the context of the article? In what other ways has "process model" figured into scholarship about writing? Similar questions could be asked of other words and phrases included here: textual forms, solitary author, cognitive process, and ecological model. The written account might also work through definitional groundwork drawn from the Oxford English Dictionary. What is the etymology (historical and linguistic development) of a term? What other words are similar to it? How does studying these words and phrases enrich your understanding of the article and identifiable lines of inquiry related to it?

Bibliographic Worknet

2. Bibliographic Worknet
Cooper's essay cites 32 sources. Certainly collecting and reading all of them would be a formidable undertaking. Nevertheless, taking some interest in them will prove worthwhile for your research. For the bibliographic worknet, you will identify 3-5 of the sources cited in an article and explore them more fully, examining the original source in light of how it is used in the article. For example, having tracked down a copy of Burke's A Grammar of Motives, next you might ask, What pieces of Burke's work does Cooper use? What other sections of the book might, at a glance, extend the idea of an ecology of writing? If you track down article-length sources, you should take the time to read them all the way through. For books, it is adequate, for the purposes of the account accompanying the bibliographic worknet, for you to read more selectively. Again, the idea here is to enlarge the context: to explore bibliographies as a method for enriching inquiry.

Affinity Worknet

3. Affinity Worknet
Affinity worknets focus on an author's working relationships: collaborations, professional appointments and associations, graduate program of study, and identifiable intellectual influences. Whereas the semantic and bibliographic worknets take root in the text itself, affinity worknets are extra-textual. Based on what we know or what we can find out, can we pinpoint particular affinities for Marylin Cooper? Inevitably this will be a speculative and imprecise pursuit, but it may nevertheless prove inventive. Particular affinities are shown in the worknet model above: 1) Cooper collaborated with Cynthia Selfe on an article in 1990; in 1980, her dissertation research at the University of Minnesota, "Implicatures in Dramatic Conversation," focused on H. Paul Grice; she worked with Dennis Lynch and Diana George on an award-winning article in 1997. As with the bibliographic worknet, the account of affinities will require you to gather materials, read them, and speculate about linkages between the work in the focal article and these ties based on affinity. Yet another approach to affinities, when such information is available, would be to identify people who attended a graduate program at the same time (e.g., cohorts, schools of thought), or to search the Proquest UMI Dissertation Abstracts Online database for information about dissertation committee members whose work you could then look into.

Choral Worknet

4. Choral Worknet
Choral worknets explore time-place coincidences as an inventive technique. Like the affinity worknet above, a choral worknet is not explicitly identifiable in the text of the article. Rather than attend to scholarly and intellectual ties as the affinity worknet does, it explores coincident objects and events from popular culture in the interest of enlarging context. Cooper's article was published in 1986, the same year Ferris Bueller's Day Off played in theaters, Chinese economist Deng Xiaoping was celebrated as Time's Man of the Year, Al Capone's vault was opened, Bill Buckner missed the ground ball, and Da Yoopers released their first album, "Yoopanese." The choral worknet instigates surprising, accidental insights through juxtaposition. These disparate elements may or may not prove, ultimately, to be inventive. Identifying this particular worknet (3-5 pop cultural coincidences), however, can lead to possible projects, as follows: How do ideas of process and ecology generalize to the economic theories embraced by Deng Xiapong? Or how does an ecological approach to writing change the ways we might think about school movies from 1986, such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Back to School?

Assignment Details
You will produce four worknets, each consisting of 1) a visual representation of linkages and 2) a written account of the investigations such linkages have generated. Each visual representation should include 3-5 nodes; each account should be between 300-500 words.

Your first worknet—either semantic or bibliographic—is due on Monday, October 18. Turn in a second worknet with your draft of P2 on Wednesday, November 5. The remaining two worknets are due on Monday, November 8.

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller, PhD
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing
Director of Composition
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Office: 315 Shanks Hall
Spring 2020 Office Hours: T, 12-3
Phone: +1-734-985-0485

"Really, we should say 'worknet' instead of 'network'. It's the work, and the movement, and the flow, and the changes that should be stressed." —Bruno Latour, "A Dialogue on ANT"

Creative Commons License
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.