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Keywords in Threshold Concepts: Time-Binding and Methodologizing Disciplinary Lexicon

Derek Mueller, Eastern Michigan University, derek.mueller@emich.edu

Q: How can researchers attend to the nascence, maturation, and expiration of threshold concepts over
Q: How can researchers
attend to the nascence,
maturation, and expiration
of threshold concepts over
time?
and expiration of threshold concepts over time? ver the last two years, rhetoric/composition/writing studies

ver the last two years, rhetoric/composition/writing studies scholars have granted more serious attention to threshold con- cepts (Meyer and Land, 2005) as a theoretical frame both for organiz- ing the eld and for documenting knowledge transfer related to writ- ing instruction. Threshold concepts have grown precipitously in popu- larity and proven useful as a cur- ricular and programmatic heuristic, and yet much of this early atten- tion to them has been philosophi- cal, conceptual, and speculative. As such, this poster presentation enters the conversation about threshold concepts with an under- standing that they remain due for further examination and elabora- tion, especially in terms of the methodologies used to identify and trace them.

terms of the methodologies used to identify and trace them. Proposal and references available at http://goo.gl/Q3XhjM.
terms of the methodologies used to identify and trace them. Proposal and references available at http://goo.gl/Q3XhjM.

Proposal and references available at http://goo.gl/Q3XhjM.

Proposal and references available at http://goo.gl/Q3XhjM. 1. Keywords operate as setae -like mobilizers for
Proposal and references available at http://goo.gl/Q3XhjM. 1. Keywords operate as setae -like mobilizers for

1. Keywords operate as setae-like mobilizers for threshold concepts (TCs).

TC
TC
TC All writing is multimodal.
TC
All writing is
multimodal.

This basic model indicates envelopment: TCs coalesce indexically, amassing a lexi- con and solidifying in a { wraparound of materially circulating disciplinary dis- course. Tracing the rising and falling of TC-associated keywords provides a meth- odological basis for know- ing the full life cycle of a TC, through nascence, matura- tion, and expiration.

To illustrate, consider the TC shown here: All writing is multimodal. These ten key- { words (left; six from Heilker and Vandenberg’s Keywords in Writing Studies (2015) and four additional) function as threshold-conceptual foot- ings, over the past two de- cades marshalling the now- articulable TC into promi- nence.

2. TCs are simultaneously catalyzed by phantom indexi- cals, organizing concepts that do not surface in high fre- quency using text-mining methods.

TC All writing is multimodal.
TC
All writing is
multimodal.

Keywords are not alone, however, in mobilizing { threshold concepts. TCs also gain buoyancy from what I call phantom indexicals- -formidable (if ellusive and tacit) accomplices to a TC that may not circulate with high frequency in published scholarship.

The above illustrations operate as a modelling system more than a representational system following a distinction ex- pressed by Johanna Drucker: “They [modelling systems] are concerned with generating new knowledge through the use of visual means, not assuming that knowledge exists a priori” (40).

not assuming that knowledge exists a priori ” (40). 3. TCs participate in semantic networks and

3. TCs participate in semantic networks and as such they are en- veloped in keywords and phantom indexicals. Tracing keywords attunes us to a TC’s accretion and avulsion in time.

Token Frequency in CCC, 1989-2013 (n=tokens/1000 words) Peak n (year) ^ computer .85 (2004) craft
Token
Frequency in CCC, 1989-2013 (n=tokens/1000 words)
Peak n (year)
^
computer
.85 (2004)
craft
.34 (2010)
design
^
.83 (1989)
^
genre
1.28 (1993)
image
.47 (2001)
^
materiality
.05 (2000)
multimodal
.47 (2007)
^
network
.29 (2011)
^
technology
.68 (1999)
!
writing
8.42 (2010)

^ Keywords featured in Heilker and Vandenberg’s Keywords in Writing Studies (2015).

! The sparkline for “writing” uses a max-10 y-scale due to its high frequency relative to the other keywords.

due to its high frequency relative to the other keywords. Ten keywords from the TC-Keyword model

Ten keywords from the TC-Keyword model are listed here with sparklines plotting their frequency in College Composition and Communication from 1989 through 2013. The twenty- ve year corpus covers 507 articles and consists of 3,943,528 words. The graphs o er perspective on the rising and falling of keywords over time. What does this suggest about the life cycle of a threshold concept? While this approach cannot on its own provide a comprehensive empirical basis for TCs, it advances inquiry into the temporality of TCs.

for TCs, it advances inquiry into the temporality of TCs. 4. Although its application requires quali

4. Although its application requires quali cation and careful reframing, time-binding, or time-based superscript notations, can direct explicit attention to temporal anchors in accounts of relationships among TCs, keywords, and phantom indexicals.

Consider

design 1993 vs. design 2013

image 1989 vs. image 2009 genre 1991 vs. genre 2011

{

as a basis for exploring

When are keywords?

When are threshold concepts?

Time-binding refers to a con- ceptual framework and nota- tion practice designed to specify chronos. Introduced by Alfred Korzybski in 1924, in association with the Gen- eral Semantics movement, the practice failed to catch on. Yet, as a modelling opera- tion, it alerts us to the rela- tionship between time, TCs, and the rising and falling key- words enveloping them.

TCs, and the rising and falling key- words enveloping them. The modelling system outlined here will

The modelling system outlined here will be focal in the Fall 2015 pilot of WRTG500: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Written Communication at Eastern Michigan University. WRTG500 is an MA-level course focused on threshold concepts, keywords, and the maturation of the discipline.

University. WRTG500 is an MA-level course focused on threshold concepts, keywords, and the maturation of the