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WRITING TECHNOLOGIES AND ACTIVITY THEORY k

“Consciousness is located in everyday practice: you are what
you do,” suggests Nardi (1996). What we do, more than ever, is write. We write to remember, to reflect, to itemize, and to internalize. We write with pens, pencils, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. We write for ourselves, and we write for and with others in a complex social matrix that is in turn mediated by our writing work. Activity Theory, as Nardi (1996) notes, “proposes a strong notion of mediation—all human experience is shaped by the tools and sign systems we use. Mediators connect us organically and intimately to the world; they are not merely filters or channels through which experience is carried.” Activity Theory offers researchers of writing and communication a set of tools for exploring and theorizing everyday practice—the embodied, often mundane activity of being-in-the-world as one who writes. ENG 690 explores contemporary writing technologies as complex forms of mediation; in particular, we'll explore how writing mediates social practice. The course will introduce you to key sources in Activity Theory from a variety of interrelated disciplines—Rhetoric and Composition, HumanComputer Interaction, and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work—giving you the tools to apply theories of human activity to your own studies of writing as complex mediation. BRIAN MCNELY, PH.D. | SPRING, 2012 | brianjmcnely.com