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Mobile Vulgus

Title: Mobile Vulgus: Everyday Writing, Portable Technology, and Counterpublics.
Name(s): Mehler, Josh, author
Fleckenstein, Kristie S., professor directing dissertation
Henne, Carolyn, university representative
Neal, Michael, committee member
Yancey, Kathleen Blake, committee member
Walker, Eric, committee member
Department of English, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2014
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This dissertation aims to make a case for the ecological relationship between portable writing technologies, everyday writing, and counterpublics, arguing that all three represent means by which we can foster more publicly–engaged and technologically savvy composition practices in the composition classroom. I look at three different historical timeframes, focusing on a different portable composing technology in each period and analyzing the products of this technology. In each period, I focus on a community that forms around each portable technology, analyzing the relationship between portable technology, the compositions sponsored by this technology, and the counterpublics that are created as a result of this relationship. In chapter two, I focus on the final decades of the nineteenth century, providing two examples of everyday writing fostered by the portable technology of the period: the small printing press. Here, I focus on two everyday writing communities: first, adolescent amateur journalists that called themselves "A–Jayers" and, second, an adult hyper-masculine and hyper-sexualized community known as "Sporting Men." I describe the textual products of these two communities that were created on small printing presses, pointing to how I see their compositions as "everyday." Further, as a result of the use of the small press, and the everyday compositions created with this portable technology, I argue that both the "A–Jayers" and "Sporting Men" form counterpublics, and it is the everyday compositions and the composing practices of these counterpublics that stands in contradistinction from the curriculum at the time. Ultimately, I claim that the nineteenth–century writing classroom represents a "bifurcated" space that was not equipped to foster the kinds of public writing that motivated these two communities to write, print, and circulate texts on their own. In chapter three, I move to the 1960s and 1970s to present examples of everyday composing that is both multimodal and mobile. Here, I focus on two communities—known as "guerrilla television collectives"—that were fostered by the newly available portable video recording technology: Broadside TV and Top Value Television. I describe the two examples of each community's multimodal compositions, underscoring how each community's approach to everyday multimodal composition supports the development of counterpublics in different ways. Further, this period also represents a moment of curricular reform in writing classrooms as well, particularly as the humanities felt increasing pressure to incorporate technology into their pedagogy. However, while several writing teachers did attempt to employ television technology in their classrooms, their approaches tended to replicate what Paolo Freire calls a "banking" model of education, with the television operating as an authoritative source of information and students passively consuming information. On the other hand, the example of the guerrilla television collectives present us with an alternative, enacting a kind of composing that comes closer to achieving the aims of educational reform ongoing at the time. I claim that guerrilla television does so by fashioning an everyday composing that privileges the formation of critically engaged, local counterpublics. In chapter four, I move to the present day, arguing that such digital technology plays a role in the sponsoring what I call "everyday cyborg composing." In this chapter, I will consider two kinds of contemporary mobile digital technologies that sponsor everyday cyborg composing: first, a hand-held, GPS-based device created by Parks Canada called "Explora" and, second, an iPhone app, named "Drift" that was developed in 2012. As demonstrated through these two portable technologies, everyday cyborg composing necessitates a rethinking of the relationship between composers and portable digital tools. Further, everyday cyborg composing suggests a recalibration of the discursive space of the public sphere; whereas publics and counterpublics have been seen as emerging from the circulation of visual-verbal texts, everyday cyborg writing designates, instead, a performance space secured through the circulation of bodies and their movements. This study adds to composition scholarship in three ways. First, this project informs our historical understanding of the intersection between everyday writing and technologies, especially the way in which different technologies have functioned as sponsors of everyday literacies. Second, this project continues and extends this disciplinary interest in the development of the "public" and the "public sphere." If, as research in composition studies suggests, the communities in which composing occurs play a crucial role in how it unfolds and develops, exploring the intersections between "publics" and the everyday will aim to inform and, potentially, redirect our current classroom practices. Third, this project contributes to the discipline's continuing interest in how technologies foster composing practices, and my emphasis on "portable technologies" specifically aims to highlight how portability supports a specific kind of composition that is considered "amateur," is frequently oppositional, and is grounded in the everyday experiences of composers.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-9048 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Summer Semester, 2014.
Date of Defense: July 2, 2014.
Keywords: Counterpublics, Education, Everyday, Portable, Technology, Writing
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Kristie S. Fleckenstein, Professor Directing Dissertation; Carolyn Henne, University Representative; Michael Neal, Committee Member; Kathleen Blake Yancey, Committee Member; Eric Walker, Committee Member.
Subject(s): English literature
English language
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Mehler, J. (2014). Mobile Vulgus: Everyday Writing, Portable Technology, and Counterpublics. Retrieved from