Wherever Writing Takes Me

This week’s assignment for 6300 Understanding Writing as a Process course is to read and locate ourselves among the range of voices in “Bad Ideas About Writing and Digital Technologies” from the book Bad Ideas About Writing by Cheryl E. Ball and Drew M. Loewe.  My voice is linked to the section titled “Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants” by Phill Michael Alexander.  I stand with Alexander in deconstructing myth associated with labeling those born before or after the technological boom.

Digital Native

He addresses a problematic theoretical concept: “…there is a profound difference between those born during the most recent age of the personal computer and the Internet and those born prior to the ubiquitous onslaught of digital technologies.  Those born during this technological boom would be native to digital and computer technology, and those who were older would be the digital immigrants, coming to digital technologies later in their lives.  The implication is that the digital native is familiar with and proficient with technologies that the digital immigrant is not, and because of this split in digital skill, it will be difficult for the two to communicate (Ball and Loewe 325).”  Before reading past this point, I attest to the fallacy of this idea.

Digital Immigrant

My perception has its basis in my own level of proficiency with digital technology in writing, even though I was born decades prior to its mass use.  I gather, too, from reading a Pew Research Center report on “Technology Use Among Seniors” that disparity exists due to economic factors, not lack of skill.

I like Alexander’s analogy of the proposed building of a wall on the southern U.S. border to denote how the terms digital native and digital immigrant are misconceptions.  “The underpinnings of “native” are that a thing or place is home for a certain group.  This leads to subtle implications that those who are not digital natives are attempting to colonize, invade, or co-opt.  It also falsely asserts that just because a person is of a certain age that person automatically knows and possesses certain skills (Ball and Loewe 326).”

I smiled at the words “colonize, invade, or co-opt” in the Alexander piece.  I vividly remember my then college-aged daughter becoming incensed over “everyone” using Facebook because she declared it was originally a means of communication among college students her own age.  She derided her sister (10 years her senior) for creating a page for me because she wanted me to be on Facebook.  I now recognize she may have unintentionally assigned her sister and me digital immigrant status.

Threshold concept 4.3 titled “Learning to Write Effectively Requires Different Kinds of Practice, Time and Effort” from the text Naming What We Know coincides with the idea of all writers having necessity to use digital technologies.  “As digital technologies have become ubiquitous, writers have become more aware…In an age when so many spaces and affordances are available, writers need considerable practice keyed not only to fluidity and technique but also to differentiated practice across different spaces of writing, working with different technologies of writing (Adler-Kassner and Wardle 65).”  This speaks to a “by any means necessary” approach for writers of every age to accomplish their goals.

Alexander asserts, “We have always written, and we will always write. To assert that whole generations either own or are alienated from the technologies used for writing is a needless limiter that attributes to false mastery and fosters a sense of futility.  It doesn’t represent any reality on the ground.  It’s a myth (Ball and Loewe 327).”  I couldn’t agree more.  I was writing before the digital age, I’m writing now.  I’ve adapted to use of new technology and will continue to do so as I keep writing.

I especially like Alexander’s conclusion.  “Digital is not a place.  You are not native to it nor do you need to apply for residence on its shores. You’re not too old, nor are you so young that you’ll have magic powers that cause you to innately understand everything digital.  But digital technology does shape how you write and will continue to shape how you write.  You need to watch, and take note, and learn, and follow the writing wherever it takes you (Ball and Loewe 328-329).”  Exactly!

Adler-Kassner, Linda and Elizabeth Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2016. Print.

Ball, Cheryl E., and Drew M. Loewe, Bad Ideas About Writing, West Virginia U, 2017. Web. 07 Oct. 2018.<https://textbooks.lib.wvu.edu/badideas/badideasaboutwriting-book.pdf>.

Digital Native Image Courtesy of Pinterest

Digital Immigrant Image Courtesy of Pexels

115 Replies to “Wherever Writing Takes Me”

  1. Hey Arlene,

    You picked a good section. I like the commentary here on considered lines of division within communication. I feel that I am also against this misconception. Regardless of a person’s proficiency with technology, or their age overall, I feel like communication would not be based in something like this. Sure, communicative norms may have significantly altered over the course of technological advancement due to new mediums and norms of discourse, but in reality this seems to be more an issue of the subject matter itself. Sometimes there is a natural, conversational disconnect of sorts when two different generations converse. It seems more so that it’s not so much a difference in styles of communication or familiarity with technology that factors in here. I feel like a notable disconnect is always there. I’ve met baby boomers who are more proficient with technology than me in so many ways, and yet I still can’t meet their wavelength in conversation. I’m somewhat on the fence about this one, but it definitely has me thinking. I’d like to talk with you about this in class. Very interesting choice, Arlene. Great post.


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